As America’s Car-Mart put it, “It’s quite a (toy) story.”

The buy-here, pay-here dealership network celebrated the most successful effort for its annual Holiday Toy Drive, collecting 31,016 toys and delivering them to 31 children’s hospitals in the company’s 12-state region.

Car-Mart of Rogers, Ark., was the top collector, gathering 1,905 toys and prompting store general manager Curtis Valentine to say, “We have a platform to do something special and give back. This shows we’re more than a car company; we’re a people company, and we’re about people. We care. We care about taking care of people.”

In a message to BHPH Report, Car-Mart also shared reactions from hospital leadership about the toys arriving courtesy of the company and 46 other sponsors, which was the highest number in the 15-year history of this philanthropic endeavor.

One of those sponsors was OPENLANE. In a post on the Car-Mart website, Alyshia Tetrick, director of strategic operations at OPENLANE, explained why the online auction company got involved.

“We want to help the children. We want them to remember it’s OK to be a kid, even in the hospital,” Tetrick said. “We can’t imagine their day-to-day struggles. It’s a challenge for the entire family. We want to create some special memories for them. That’s why we want to be involved with Car-Mart’s toy drive.

“During the holidays, these toys provide relief for the whole family by taking one worry off their minds,” Tetrick continued. “At OPENLANE, we’re always looking for ways to give back to the community.

“Car-Mart’s toy drive is a significant part of our community involvement efforts. We want to spread some holiday cheer by giving away something as basic as toys,” Tetrick went on to say. “It’s great to partner with Car-Mart in a different kind of atmosphere and partnership. We have fun and deliver cheer and magic with the Car-Mart team. To do something like this with one of our trusted partners is wonderful. Joining Car-Mart and their toy drive is super special.”

And the benefiting hospitals greatly appreciated the effort. Here are four reactions.

“It is because of your generosity that we are able to host our annual holiday store as well as provide birthday gifts, prize closet gifts, end-of-treatment gifts, and fill up out playrooms throughout the year,” said Claire Bowen, associate development officer of Children’s Health in Dallas.

“Thank you for your generous gift! As a champion of Children’s Mercy, your act of kindness and compassion will help children and families thrive during their time with us. We appreciate you for supporting our mission and being an advocate for a world of well-being,” said the Department of Philanthropy at Children’s Mercy in Kansas City, Mo.

“We got your donation today from the foundation. Thank you SO much for your generous support of the Children’s Hospital. We are just blown away by your support in making Christmas so magical for our kiddos. We could not do it without you,” said Abigail Silver, child life specialist at Piedmont Columbus Regional in Columbus, Ga.

“Your thoughtful donation of toys will help deliver joy to patients and families at Arkansas Children’s during the holiday season and beyond – thank you. Because of you, children will laugh, smile, and play, even when they’re in the hospital. Your generosity will help brighten the holidays for these kids and their families, who are struggling right now to cope with serious illnesses and devastating injuries. Your kindness will help kids get better today and be healthier tomorrow. Thank you for being a champion for children at Arkansas Children’s,” said Erica Phillips, executive director of volunteer engagement at Arkansas Children’s in Little Rock.

Car-Mart also recapped the start of the program.

In 2008, Crystal Kuster, an associate in Claremore, Okla., decided to conduct a toy drive for The Children’s Hospital at St. Francis in Tulsa. Car-Mart’s chief operating officer at the time gave the go-ahead to proceed.

The following year, the program expanded to all its Tulsa-area dealerships. By the third year, it spread to the region, and in 2012, it became company wide.

“It’s now a beloved annual event,” Car-Mart said.

Quite a toy story, indeed.