Tanner Eaves is the young architect behind Lake Mary’s signature holiday sock drive, one of the community’s most inspiring homegrown charities.
For Lake Mary 17-year-old Tanner Eaves, philanthropy is the foundation of his life. In fact, you could say his family is built on it.
From the time he was five, Tanner’s parents instilled in him the importance of giving back. They gave young Tanner three jars to keep on his dresser: one for saving, one for spending, and one for charity.
“I always remember putting money in the charity jar,” says Tanner. When the jar was full, Tanner and his mom, Megan, used the $65 inside to buy games and toys for children in need.
Megan then contacted a local shelter for children waiting for placement in foster homes.
“I told them, ‘My son is only five, but he has a big heart, and he wants to bring toys for the kids.’” It wasn’t long before the Eaves family was invited to visit the shelter, and while Tanner gave out toys and played with the other children, Megan and her husband Bradley held and rocked the babies.
“There was one little boy who just cried and cried when we put him down,” Megan remembers. The child left such an imprint on her heart, Megan found herself going back to the shelter every day for the next 45 days.
“He was almost 18 months old,” says Megan. “All three of us knew there was something special about this boy.” With great determination and persistence, Megan and Bradley soon gave their son Tanner an adopted baby brother. “It is because of Tanner that we have Dylan,” smiles Megan, adding softly, “and I still have the jar.”
As Tanner grew, the experience at the shelter left an indelible mark, inspiring him to spread cheer at other places where children were in distress, like Families in Transition and Kids House of Seminole.
“I soaked in the surroundings and saw how the children were living,” Tanner explains. “What they were eating. What they go through on a daily basis.” Tanner was especially struck by the fact that some kids maintained high spirits despite their circumstances, while others seemed defeated and depressed. Tanner didn’t quite know how, but he was determined to bring at least a tiny bit of warmth into even the darkest, coldest corner of a struggling child’s life.
By the time Tanner was an active fifth grader at Heathrow Elementary, he discovered determination plus boredom can sometimes equal philanthropic inspiration.
“It was between sports seasons, and I was bored out of my mind,” Tanner recalls of that fateful fall in 2009. Tanner found himself where boredom often leads – the Internet – and discovered a website that would give his young life new direction. It was the homepage for an organization in Seattle, Washington, that ran a holiday sock drive. The idea instantly resonated with Tanner, a self-professed “sock guy” who even today is happy to show off the colorful and unique designs of the socks he sports.
“Lots of people do clothes and toy drives during the holidays; I liked the idea of a sock drive because it was something fresh and different,” Tanner explains. More research revealed that socks are one of the least donated but most needed necessities anywhere children are in need.
With the help of Dylan, then in second grade at Heathrow, the brothers designed a collection box to place in their school.
“Our goal was to collect 100 pairs of socks,” says Tanner. The two Eaves boys slightly overachieved – more than 1,200 new pairs were collected that first year. So encouraged by the outpouring of support, Tanner and his mom began looking for ways to do more the following year.
“From there the sock drives just exploded!” Tanner says. Every year, with the help of the community and his family, Tanner has far exceeded each year’s goal by thousands of pairs, collecting enough socks in 2014 (10,461 pairs, to be exact) to fill the Eaves family room from wall to wall. “We just crushed it!”
“What we do is better than just asking people to give money to help kids,” Tanner says. “Socks are something most people can afford to donate, and when they see our Facebook page with the faces of the children receiving their socks on Christmas morning, they know that what they’ve done has had a real effect.”
The 2015 sock drive is about to ramp up for the holiday season, and you can read the sidebar on the following page to learn how you can help Tanner and his family break another sock-raising record. For his part, Tanner knows his days at the helm of his Lake Mary charity are numbered. Now a junior at Lake Mary High School, Tanner realizes it will be up to others to spearhead the local cause once he goes off to college.
“This is no longer my sock drive – it belongs to the community,” Tanner acknowledges. He remains hopeful that other young people will see the value in helping others, just as he has since he was five. “If everyone does just a little, then together we can do a whole lot to change many lives.”
Just like every sock must have a match to be complete, Tanner has paired his beliefs with his deeds to change our community for the better. That is the very simple secret to his SOCKcess.
How Can I Help?
Want to help make this year’s holiday sock drive the biggest ever? There are several ways to get involved:
Donate socks, of course! New, unused socks in sizes for infants to teens/adults can be dropped off right now at Pools by Bradley in Sanford and at most Seminole County elementary schools and a number of local businesses beginning in November. The full list of drop-off locations will be published in October on SockDrive.net and the “Annual Holiday Sock Drive” Facebook page.
Want More Information?
Set up a drop-off location at your business. Contact Megan Eaves via the Facebook page (“like” it first to allow contact) or by calling 407-416-0384. Your business will receive a sock box kit, including flyers and posters. The box will be dropped off and picked up at your location.
Donate money to the sock drive. Contact Megan directly to donate. Tanner works with several local retailers to make sure every dollar buys the most socks possible.
Volunteer to help collect the socks and spread the word.
“Like” and follow the Annual Holiday Sock Drive Facebook page – that’s easy!
Here’s a list of some of the local organizations that will receive socks:
Children’s Home Society
Florida United Methodist Children’s Home
Kids House of Seminole
Devereux of Florida
Boys & Girls Club of Orlando
Boys & Girls Club of Sanford
Beta House of Orlando
Edgewood Children’s Ranch
Rescue Outreach Mission
SafeHouse of Seminole
Photo: The Eaves family: Dylan, Megan, Bradley, and Tanner