Peace toys turn tragedy into a positive

Dec. 14, 2013 @ 10:45 PM

WINSTON-SALEM — A Winston-Salem man is using the violent death of his brother more than 20 years ago as the inspiration for a Christmas toy exchange.

Ben Piggott decided that instead of seeking revenge, he would do something to make his community a better place.

Piggott began rounding up "peace toys" to give to children at Christmas. For the second straight year, he will hold his Peace Toys for War Toys Exchange at the Joel Coliseum Annex. It's the 21st annual year for the event, which is scheduled for next Friday.

The idea is for kids to exchange violent toys — guns or violent video games — for computers, bicycles, dolls and other peaceful toys.

Piggott says up to 1,000 children may be involved this year.

Piggott said his brother, Kermit Bruce Piggott and a friend were arguing in 1991 when the friend shot his brother. Ben Piggott, who was in his early 30s, had just gotten a job as recreation director. He said healing was hard.

"I was angry," he said.

But a man he met told him that he should put everything in God's hands and that if he did, "I would see things that I never had seen before."

Piggott went through a program that helps survivors of violence deal with their losses. It helped spark an idea that turned into Peace Toys for War Toys. He thought about how his brother and his friend had never meant for the argument to come to such a tragic end.

The idea of swapping war toys for peaceful toys caught on, Piggott said.

"We must teach the children about control instead of going off on your emotions and acting on that," Piggott said. "Instead of fighting, turn to love to solve the problem."

Piggott's event started out at Sims Neighborhood Center and moved to Russell Community Center when Piggott did. But it outgrew the recreation center last year and moved to the Joel Annex.

Piggott said it takes about 60 volunteers to put on the toy exchange. He takes new and lightly used toys. Above all, he said he needs bikes and mini-notebook computers.

"When they get a computer they will be jumping up and shouting," Piggott said.

People planning to attend the event are asked to bring some nonperishable food, which will be donated to AIDS Care Service.