Monday night was to be the first night of gift-giving at the Ronald McDonald House in Lexington. Instead, about half of the 300 to 500 gifts that were to be given to the families of sick and hospitalized children were ruined.
Sarah Warner, executive director of Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Bluegrass, said that at about noon Monday, staff members noticed the overhead fire sprinkler in the boardroom leaking, so they put a bucket under it.
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Then, Warner said, "the sprinkler just started hissing and spraying this brown rusty water all over the boardroom."
Gifts the organization had been collecting for an entire year were covered in the muck.
After local news media outlets began airing the story, elves throughout the community stepped in to help.
"The response has just been amazing," said Debbie Pinkston, night manager for the organization.
She said late Monday that people had been bringing in gifts all evening, and calls were still coming in. She said she was confident that the organization would have what it needed.
Warner said the families staying at Ronald McDonald House are far from home, with sick children. They have little time for shopping for gifts.
"These kids don't think Santa can find them," she said.
Even if the toys sprayed with dirty water could be cleaned up, Warner said, she would be afraid to give them out because many of the children have compromised immune systems.
Toys, gift cards and other gifts may be dropped off any time at 1300 Sports Center Drive, near KET's offices on Cooper Drive.