DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) For 40 years, WDTN has partnered with Miami Valley communities to help keep those in need warm during the cold winter months. The Coats for Kids campaign started off as “Carl’s Coats for Kids” and was spearheaded by our former longtime Chief Meteorologist Carl Nichols.

Carl worked at WDTN for 32 years, and back in the early 80s, the WDTN Communications Manager came to him with an idea.

“She said, ‘What if we collect coats and partner with a dry cleaners to clean them up and then distribute to those in need?’ I thought that was the best idea,” Nichols says.

So we rolled out our first big barrels and asked the community to step up with winter coat donations. The first year, the hope was for 1,000 to 1,500 coats. But the campaign was a success right away, and over 20,000 coats were collected.

Capitol Cleaners took on the task of cleaning the coats, but they weren’t prepared for the sheer volume actually collected.

“The first week of the campaign I was coming down Stroop, heading to work, and I looked over in Capitol’s lobby and the whole lobby was full of coats and they had a little passageway for customers to come through and get to the desk,” Nichols said.

Once the coats were clean, Goodwill was enlisted to help distribute coats to those in need. On distribution day, Carl would broadcast live from the event. He remembers people waiting in lines that wrapped around the building, standing in the cold, waiting for something to keep them warm.

“One time, I was getting out of my car and this woman was coming toward me with a whole arm full of coats. I don’t know how many kids she had, but an armful of coats. I thought that was the greatest thing,” he said.

Carl retired in 2009 after working at WDTN for more than 30 years. Despite his departure, Coats for Kids is still going strong, and he says he is not surprised.

“I say this all the time, I think it’s [successful] because of the people of the Miami Valley. That does it all. When I was doing this, the people who were giving, and even the people we helped, probably have kids now, even grandkids. So hopefully they can continue the tradition of donating. I think it’s a give-give all the way around. And really I think it’s one of the best programs that we have ever had at Channel 2.”

Starting Sept. 8, you can find our collection barrels at LCNB National Bank locations throughout the Miami Valley, and for the first time, we are also accepting monetary donations.

Click here for more information and how to donate.