A cheer went up when the doors to the Horticulture Agriculture Building at the Indiana State Fairgrounds opened at 8:00 this morning. Families immediately began to stream into the biggest coat closet in the state – at least for one day.

Today is the culmination of months of planning, weeks of collection and days of setup. The 27th Annual Coats for Kids campaign concludes with distribution day, when thousands of Central Indiana children get the chance to find the perfect winter coat, thanks to the generosity of our community and The Salvation Army.

As families arrive they are greeted by volunteers ready to guide them through racks of coats for boys and girls of every age and size. Shouts of “This one!” and “I found it!” mingle with the happy noise of children giggling and the quieter expressions of gratitude from parents and grandparents as they experience firsthand the wonder of this day.

Former WTHR weatherman Bob Gregory, who started Coats for Kids 27 years ago, is here, a familiar face to so many adults and a new hero to the youngest visitors. As he walks among the crowds, shaking hands and talking with the children, we are reminded how many families Coats for Kids has helped over the years. In 2012 alone over 4,200 children received coats, jackets, hats, gloves and mittens through Coats for Kids.

The campaign is a partnership between WTHR, Tuchman Cleaners and The Salvation Army, and the building is filled with volunteers from each organization. For the next several hours they will assist each family to make certain that no child leaves without the gear needed to make his or her winter warm and comfortable.

Thank you to everyone who donated new and gently used coats, and to all who donated money to purchase new coats for today’s event. If you want to see the magic for yourself, come on down to the fairgrounds today or consider volunteering during next year’s Coats for Kids campaign. It doesn’t just warm the kids – it warms your heart!