Gift drive led by 148th Fighter Wing in memory of fellow guardsman

By KBJR News 1

December 16, 2013 Updated Dec 16, 2013 at 11:39 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) - A gift of good will by the 148th Air Guard to the Salvation Army, in Duluth, is helping honor the memory of a guardsman whose co–workers say started the tradition.

Tech Sergeant Ryan Ewold, of the 148th Air Guard, died in a tragic ATV accident in Northeastern Minnesota this fall.

Before that, he started a bike drive for Northland children, with most of the donations coming from 148th members.

The toy drive grew over the years, but this year, and with permission from his widow, officials decided to dedicate the event in Ewold's name.

Master Sergeant Ryan Gigliotti says the Ryan Ewald Memorial Toy Drive is a great way to capture his friend's spirit.

"He was really big about kids. He was a volunteer football coach at East for many years. He was a ski instructor at Spirit Mountain for many years, and he also helped kids learn to hunt and fish," said Gigliotti, after setting down another box of toys. "He was always about exposing kids to things, and teaching them things."

This year, the 148th was able to collect about 2,500 toys, along with $500 dollars in cash, for the drive.

Salvation Army officials say the donation will help greatly with meeting their needs.

If you'd like to donate a new toy for the Toyland Express drive, the NNC NOW studios is an official drop off site.