The theme of this year’s Coats for Kids seemed to be “Generosity.” From a record-setting coat collection at Lucas Oil Stadium to new cash gifts to help keep up with high demand, the trademark hospitality and charitableness of Hoosiers played a big role is the success of Saturday’s Coats for Kids Distribution Day.

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Bob Gregory helps sisters find new coats

The line that wrapped around the Blue Ribbon Pavilion at the Indiana State Fairgrounds started forming in the wee hours of Saturday morning, hours before sunrise. By the time the doors opened at 8:00 a.m., hundreds of parents and children had arrived, ready to shop. Coats for Kids requires no per-registration, but children must be present to take home a coat.

Each family was matched with a volunteer escort, including several WTHR personalities like Angela Buchman, Rich Nye, Sean Ash, Carrie Cline and Mimi Pierce and, of course, former weather man Bob Gregory. The large shopping floor was organized by gender and size, making it a quick process to find the perfect coat for every child in the family. Before leaving, the kids got to choose accessories like gloves, mittens, hats and scarves that were piled high on long tables.

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The Murphy family with some of gloves & mittens they helped to purchase

This year saw an abundance of winter accessories thanks to the Murphy family, who donated money to buy over 3,000 pairs of gloves and mittens in sizes to fit everyone, from the tiniest babies to growing teens. Eleven family members, spanning three generations, volunteered to help kids find the perfect fit and color to match their new coats. Thanks to the generosity of the Murphy family and other groups who collected accessories, every child who left with a coat also had a new hat and gloves.

One group of volunteers from Faith Community Church contributed 1,200 hats they had collected for the event. Suzi, a volunteer from the church, explained how a church member had seen the need for hats when she volunteered for Coats for Kids several years before.

“She made it her mission to start collecting hats, and so for the past three years she’s been leading an event at our church all through the year to collect hats. People make them, people buy them. We get gloves and scarves, too,” Suzi added.

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Major Webster helps a family choose hats and gloves

Adam and Christy, a couple recently back in the country after living in Ethiopia as missionaries for the past year, came to Coats for Kids because they needed extra help preparing their four kids for the upcoming winter. They had given away all their winter gear before leaving on their trip and needed to rebuild the kids’ winter wardrobe.

“It’s wonderful to have something like this that we can utilize,” Adam explained. “This isn’t something that we need all the time, but particularly in situations like this, it’s perfect.”

The flow of families never slowed, but volunteers working behind the curtains in the re-stocking area kept all the racks filled until the last family walked through. Employees from Tuchman Cleaners and Two Men and a Truck lent a hand behind the scenes so that operations would be seamless up front.

By the end of the day 3,875 children were suited up for another unpredictable Indiana winter thanks to everyone who donated, volunteered and partnered with The Salvation Army to make this a great event.