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Children pick out toys at the Darius Hemingway Toy Drive in the Racepath Community Park on Saturday. Hemingway, 30, was shot and killed on Oct. 12 at Allen's Food Basket on U.S. 501. He started an informal toy drive last year and his family took up the cause this year. Photo by Janet Morgan/janet.morgan@myhorrynews.com

Deloris Alston thought of Darius Hemingway Saturday as her family picked up gifts from his toy drive.

Alston knew Hemingway from the time he was an infant until he was killed at a Myrtle Beach restaurant in October. On Saturday, she wanted to focus more on how the Racepath man lived than the way he died.

"It means a lot," Alston said of the drive Hemingway’s family held in his honor. "Giving the kids toys and stuff so they can remember him. Not what happened but the person that he was because he was a gentle soul."

Hemingway’s first toy drive began last year with a trip to Wal-Mart

"One day, out of the blue, [Darius] called me and said, 'Yo, let's go to Wal-Mart. Take me to Wal-Mart. Let's grab some toys,'" Hemingway’s friend Jaylen Wright recalled. 

After that, Hemingway and Wright filled a Jeep with presents and brought it to Racepath, a poor donut-hole community surrounded by the city of Myrtle Beach. Kids who may not have had Christmas gifts got them because of Hemingway’s decision.

Hemingway was already making plans for this year’s event. But on the morning of Oct. 12, he was shot and killed at Allen's Food Basket on U.S. 501. He was 30 years old.

After his death, Hemingway’s neighbors wondered if the toy drive would still happen. His family and friends insisted.

"It took me a month to get right and get my mind right and know we had to get this done," Wright said.

Hemingway’s sister Tara Chestnut said the planning for Saturday's event was both encouraging and difficult.

"You're full of emotion any time you see a picture of Darius," she said. "He was person that gave. He had a big heart.”

Once Hemingway’s friends and family set everything in motion, the second drive took off. The family set up a drop-off location for people in the community to donate presents. Word spread of the toy drive and suddenly gifts and money flowed.

"I want to say that we probably touched all 50 states," Wright said.

The group received just over $2,000 but there were so many toys donated that the money wasn't needed. 

"We of course have the money secured and it's not going to be touched," Wright said, adding that the funds will be going to a good cause.

For Saturday’s drive, families registered online and arrived at Racepath Community Park at specific times to pick out toys. Those who didn't register could still come by but had to visit later in the day. 

Tables were stacked high with presents. A little girl carefully eyed a pink tricycle while a boy scanned the tables for LEGO sets. A toddler pointed at a brightly colored football and beamed with delight as a volunteer knelt down and placed it into his outstretched arms.

Chestnut said there were so many gifts donated that a storage unit had to be rented to hold them all. While the event was scheduled to end around 5 p.m. Saturday, Chestnut planned on loading a moving truck with gifts, going out to other communities and distributing presents to children in those areas.

"My brother believed in living life," Chestnut said. "Be a giver. Give from the heart.”

“This is exactly what he would've wanted," Wright said.

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