Skyler MacKay, 14, sits among some of the over 700 toys he has collected for local children in foster care as part of his Eagle Scout project at his family’s home in Lynnwood. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Skyler MacKay, 14, sits among some of the over 700 toys he has collected for local children in foster care as part of his Eagle Scout project at his family’s home in Lynnwood. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Teen Santa: Scout brings toys and joy to foster kids, like he was

Skyler MacKay, 14, of Lynnwood is collecting 1,000 toys for his Eagle Scout project. Toys will be given year-round.

LYNNWOOD — Skyler MacKay has been planning his Eagle Scout project since he was 8 years old.

Give nice, new toys to foster children. Not the used, broken toys like he got as a foster kid.

What’s up with that?

Skyler, 14, officially started the project in June and has collected about 700 toys, such as $50 Lego sets with 1,500 pieces.

His goal: 1,000 toys by the end of the year.

“Anything your children would like,” Skyler said. “The children of foster care are no different. They’d like the same things.”

He’s a year-round Santa. The toys are for children when they enter the foster care system, not as holiday presents.

“So they can pick out something of their very own to take with them into their new home,” he said. “So often kids come into foster care with the clothes on their backs and nothing else.”

The gifts must be new and unwrapped, so children can select what they want.

“My main focus is older kids because so often they get forgotten,” said Skyler, a member of Troop 49 that meets at the Alderwood Boys & Girls Club.

With each gift, Skyler attaches a letter of encouragement. It’s as important as the toy.

“Because I know firsthand how hard those first few days in foster care can be and having kind words from other kids can make a huge difference in a child’s ability to cope and process all of the hard stuff that goes along with coming into foster care,” he wrote on the GoFundMe page to raise money for the gifts.

“One example, imagine for a minute that you get up in the morning and go to school and during the school day, someone called a social worker comes to talk with you … You’re told that you aren’t going home … and will be placed in foster care. Suddenly, you no longer have any of your toys or things at home.”

Skyler MacKay fixes his neckerchief and the Troop 49 slide he 3D printed. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Skyler MacKay fixes his neckerchief and the Troop 49 slide he 3D printed. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

He recruited people to write letters. He has a sheet of ideas, such as, “Things will get better” and “You are so important, and don’t let anyone tell you differently.”

For his project, he spoke to Rotary, VFW and Elks clubs.

He has almost reached his goal of raising $7,000, but doesn’t plan to stop there. The more the merrier.

He orders toys from an Amazon wishlist he curated and has the gifts sent to his Lynnwood home. He and his mom, Lisa MacKay, have delivered more than 600 toys to child services agencies in Lynnwood and Smokey Point.

The sleigh: the Scout troop’s 5-by-8 foot trailer, towed by his grandfather’s Toyota truck.

Another 75 toys are in the family’s living room, ready to go.

Skyler shops for deals. He bought those $50 Lego sets for $25 at a Walmart sale.

“Legos go across age and gender,” he said.

He also has dolls, games, books and electronics.

Though he hopes to get at least 1,000 toys by the end of December, more are welcome and will be accepted in 2023.

“Any stragglers I will take to the office for them,” he said.

Skyler was 6 when placed in foster care with MacKay. He was her first placement as a foster parent.

The two have been together since. The adoption was final when he was 10.

Skyler arrived with a bundle of challenges. He needed a new home after the turmoil of his previous adoption.

“I was a handful,” Skyler said. “If you were a social worker that day you remember.”

Skyler MacKay goes over the many Scout patches he has earned and sewn to his sash. He has 24 more to go of 139 badges. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Skyler MacKay goes over the many Scout patches he has earned and sewn to his sash. He has 24 more to go of 139 badges. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

MacKay had planned to take in several foster children.

“My behaviors at the time were not going to allow that,” Skyler said.

“Skyler needed attention because of his trauma history,” she said.

The day he arrived, as she sat at the table with the social worker, he slipped away with her phone.

“I walked outside and put in the passcode and it opened,” he said. “I went back in and asked her why she didn’t have any games on her phone.”

The code was the numbers on her house.

“He’s a smart kid,” she said.

He had a different name when he arrived.

“I thought about keeping it. I did not want a name that every time I heard I’d had bad memories associated with it,” he said.

She came up with a long list of new names. He picked Skyler.

She chose Scouts as an activity.

“Being a single mom, I wanted him to have some positive male role models in his life,” said MacKay, who was a Girl Scout.

Skyler planned to earn 100 merit badges.

“I decided if I can earn 100 I might as well go for 139,” he said.

He has only 24 to go. For now, he’s focused on getting 300 more toys.

Troop 49 Scoutmaster Shane Hazard said Skyler in his younger days was a handful.

Skyler MacKay looks through some of the toys he has gathered for his Eagle Scout project. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Skyler MacKay looks through some of the toys he has gathered for his Eagle Scout project. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

“He has matured and grown,” Hazard said. “It is two-prong. The challenges he came in with have challenged me to be a better Scout leader.”

He said Skyler’s Eagle Scout project is different than most.

“Most Eagle projects impact a community, so maybe a church, or an organization or individual. His project impacts a region, and a potential generation of kids to come,” Hazard said. “He has compassion for those kids in the same situation he was in.”

Skyler, a Mountlake Terrace High School freshman, is a member of the school’s FRC Robotics Club.

“I am very proud of him. He has come a really long way. It’s quite impressive,” his mom said.

She doesn’t use her address as a passcode anymore.

Skyler’s Eagle Scout project

Contact Skyler MacKay at eaglescoutfostercaretoydrive@gmail.com or visit gofund.me/346d86a9

Andrea Brown: 425-339-3443; abrown@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @reporterbrown.

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