Cupboard clearout brings joy to kids

Man gives away toys to make kids smile

JENNA HOUGHTON
Last updated 05:00 20/12/2013
Ashley Snowden
CHARLOTTE CURD/ Fairfax NZ
FRESH START: Ashley Snowden, left, is giving away toys from the tinsel clad house he shares with Jo Massey and faithful Piggy.

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Ashley Snowden has been cleaning out his cupboards and in the process donated hundreds of thousands of toys to children this Christmas.

During the past eight years, about half a million toys and books have found their way into the nooks and crannies of Mr Snowden's double-room cottage, three sheds and roof space.

The 58-year-old was diagnosed with schizophrenia in the 1970s and the disease compelled him to collect toys. He has decided the time to let it all go is now.

"Jo wanted things sorted out a bit. I was in hospital for three weeks, and started organising, making phone calls and it snowballed from there," Mr Snowden said.

Jo Massey has been Mr Snowden's flatmate for the past 10 years, and has helped donate to local charities.

The process has been therapeutic for Mr Snowden, who wants to enjoy the empty, minimal space. "It's a relief. Although it's not what I believed would happen to them in the first place, it is the right time, and it puts a smile on the kids' faces."

Mr Snowden had hoped the toys would be shipped to Third World countries but, after some research, he found it would be too expensive. So far, donations have been made to Women's Refuge, the children's ward at Taranaki Base Hospital, Salvation Army, YMCA, Marfell Community Centre, the Anglican Church, and Waitara Rotary, which on Monday collected 1000 plastic bags filled with toys.

"They've set up a store in Waitara to sell them. The money they get will go towards tents and necessary items for refugees," he said.

Mr Snowden said Rotary would be back in the new year to collect what was left. Free toys also sit in a basket out the front of their Hine St house, which is decorated with tinsel and 42 Christmas trees.

The decorations take three days to set up, and the assortment keeps growing.

"It's all recycled and the lights are solar," Ms Massey said.

"It's something for the little kids to see in the daytime, and a bit more environmental. It's an expression of my tinsel fetish. You can never have enough tinsel."

She said the trees would stay up until birds had stopped nesting in them next year.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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