I swear the wind picks up as I climb the metal stairs to Chet Buchanan’s perch above Sahara Avenue and the NV Energy parking lot. Thirty feet in the air, on a long scaffolding platform covered in wooden boards, Buchanan looks right at home. He’s bundled up in a KLUC parka, hat and thick gloves, and he’s sharing his space with a Coleman tent, a heater, his broadcast equipment and the bright pink Port-a-Jane stocked with baby wipes (“lots of baby wipes”) that he calls his “refuge.” Halfway through our interview he looks at my bare fingers and laughs. “I can’t believe you’re still writing,” he says. Subtext: Rookie.
Buchanan is the pro. This is the 13th year KLUC has sponsored the Toy Drive and Buchanan’s 11th spending his own 12 days of Christmas living and broadcasting in the air to raise awareness and encourage people to donate toys, cash and gift cards to HELP of Southern Nevada. Already two rows of cartoon-colored bikes stretch like sentinels in front of his camp, with two 51-foot Albertson’s trucks sitting nearby. The traffic-facing marquee counts off the dollars in cash and gift cards donated thus far—$90,375 as of this past Monday morning.
That might sound like a lot, but it’s nothing. Last year, Toy Drive wracked up 14 trucks and 2,287 bicycles. And this year they’re aiming even higher by the time Buchanan descends on December 12.
“The image people have of who benefits from Toy Drive is way off,” he says. “It’s the person next to you going to work everyday. And next year it could be you.”
Last year, Buchanan says, it was Doug. Or rather, it could have been. The local father had taken his teenage daughters away from their abusive mother, and then he lost his job. He didn’t have money for presents, but he had missed the HELP registration, so Doug wrote Buchanan a letter explaining his situation. When the Toy Drive was over, Buchanan bought Doug’s girls iPods and gift cards to Patty’s Closet and the two men shared a moment of thanks sitting in the Big Dog’s parking lot. This year, on Day 2, Doug showed up again—this time wheeling a pair of new bicycles across the NV Energy parking lot.
- To donate, drop off toys before December 12 at the NV Energy parking lot, 6226 W. Sahara Avenue, or visit, helpsonv.org.
“He made it about 10 feet before he broke into tears,” Buchanan recalls. “He had three more in the car.”
Still, the local radio personality says he’s “scared to death every year” when Toy Drive comes around—that people won’t give, that they won’t top last year’s number, that no one will show up. “We used to call it the Day 6 meltdown,” he laughs, though today on Day 5 he seems calm, focused, happy.
“It’s about keeping your head in the game,” Buchanan says. “Drink water. Take vitamins. As much as we’re all selfish, we all want to do something for someone else.”
The bikes’ tassels wave in the wind. Some people already have.