U.S. Marine Bryan McNeal shaking hands with Trees owner Clint Barlow at the annual Toys for Tots concert in Deep Ellum
U.S. Marine Bryan McNeal shaking hands with Trees owner Clint Barlow at the annual Toys for Tots concert in Deep Ellum
Paul Wilkins

Drowning Pool Prepares for Their Sold-Out Holiday Show at Trees, Benefiting Toys for Tots

It’s become a Dallas tradition on the night before Christmas Eve to attend Trees’ annual Toys for Tots holiday concert with local favorites Drowning Pool. This year’s event marks the eighth year for North Texas music lovers to come together and donate unwrapped toys for local children who may not receive a visit from Santa Claus this year.

The event will be the last stop of Drowning Pool’s month long tour that took them up up north to brave what bassist Stevie Benton called “snowpocalypse” after a blizzard struck Buffalo where they were set to play. “Most of us [in the band] don’t even own the right kind of clothes for that kind of weather,” he told the Observer in a phone interview on Tuesday afternoon.

Drowning Pool won’t be alone, though. 9 Electric, Adakain, 5 Billion and Counting, Anova and Red Tide Rising are joining them on stage.

Drowning Pool have played nearly every Toys for Tots event at Trees, selling out almost every show. Benton says he was approached by Trees’ owner Clint Barlow, who was also the former drummer of local pop-rap icon Vanilla Ice, to play the first show in 2008.

“It makes it feel like Christmas when we play the show,” Benton says.

Barlow had come up with idea to accept donations for children whose families are facing financial distress with Bryan McNeal, a Marine veteran who’s part of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program. The program started in 1947 when U.S. Marine Major Bill Hendricks’ wife, Diane, asked him to deliver a homemade doll to an organization that would give it to a needy child at Christmas, according to Toys for Tots' website.

Hendricks soon realized that no organization existed, so his wife suggested that he start one. With the help of a few good Marines, he was able to collect and distribute 5,000 toys to needy children.

The Marines’ Toys for Tots program has grown over the years, expanding to all 50 states and giving out more than 102 million toys to needy children.

Over the years, Trees has collected more than 5,000 toys, says McNeal, who also points out that the annual event with Drowning Pool is something the Marines over at the Toys for Tots warehouse look forward to attending each year. He says they come out in large numbers to celebrate the good cause with other local music lovers.

“It’s a chance for the Marines to give but also have a good time for all the work they did during this time of year,” McNeal says.

McNeal says this year, the Marines have received more than 350,000 requests for toys, and he says he hopes this year’s concert will raise enough toy donations to fill those requests.

Trees doors open at 7 p.m. on Dec. 23, and the concert starts at 8 p.m. Advanced tickets are $9.71 at treesdallas.com.

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