If it’s hard sometimes to find reasons for thanks amid the commercial hub-bub, non-stop to-do lists and expectations that dominate our lives, try making some time to just breathe and focus on what you really enjoy. Remember that when you give of your true self, the biggest recipient is often you. Since 2003, Lash LaRue has focused on delivering holiday toys to the children of the Pine Ridge Reservation. LaRue is a veteran Omaha roots musician, guitar repair wiz and occasional guitar teacher. LaRue’s pursuit of Lakota spiritual traditions led to his involvement in helping the medicine man, David Swallow Jr., bring Christmas to the reservation’s children. Lakota spiritual practices include an emphasis on giving back to the community. LaRue began with a single acoustic toy collection show. Since that night when he gathered with a few friends at the now defunct Mick’s in Benson the effort has grown. And grown. And grown. Every year there seems to be at least one new element that increases the efforts to bring light and hope to a community where December looms cold and dark. “I’m surrounded by wonderful friends and amazing music and we get to use our talents to help others,” LaRue says. “We don’t do it for anything other than the joy of doing it, but even so, the blessings come back ten-fold. At least I know it has for me.” However you spend your holiday time, LaRue’s Toy Drive illustrates that just one person’s desire to do some good can become really powerful with the help of a few friends. The synergy of a group of people working together, and having fun doing it, can reap rewards that nobody saw coming. Each year the Toy Drive gives toys to even more kids who truly would have nothing on Christmas. They live a day’s drive from Omaha and live in one of the most impoverished regions in the country. In the past few years there has been enough extra money to donate funds to heat the clinic and to contribute to an emergency heat fund to help heat the homes of the elderly during the bitter reservation winter. The involvement of Rick Galusha’s P.S. Blues on 89.7 The River yielded more contributions and the creation of a local college scholarship opportunity for Native American students. There’s a CD of amazing original music by local artists who donate their time and talent. This year, the Zoo Bar is involved with a new event that is stacking up to be a night of music, fun and toy collecting to appeal to Lincoln music fans of various genres. So whatever you’re passionate about, pull a few friends together and do something, give somewhere, make something happen. You might be surprised at the results you can create and the joy you get from giving. Toy Drive Kick Off The Toy Drive events begin with the CD listening party and official release Wednesday, Dec. 1, at 7 p.m. at The Waiting Room. This is a free, all-ages event with CDs for sale. Jim Homan from Screen Door Studio donated recording, mixing and mastering time for the disc. It features fine original tunes from 15 local artists. Thursday, Dec. 2, the acoustic show that started it all is scheduled for Slowdown with Matt Cox, Korey Anderson, Kyle Harvey and Dustin Clayton. Concert events continue Saturday and Sunday. Admission to the Thursday show is $10 or a new, unwrapped toy. See more on the full schedule of events in next week’s column. Check lashlaruetoydrive.com for all the details. Thanksgiving Eve Food Bank Show Thanksgiving Eve, Wednesday, Nov. 24, after 9 p.m. there is a special show at Benson’s Barley Street Tavern to collect canned goods for the Omaha Food Bank. No glass items or perishable goods, please. Canned ‘n’ Benson features solo performances by Nick Carl, Matt Whipkey, Ben Seiff, Kyle Harvey, Cass Brostad, Alex Diimig, Korey Anderson, Rebecca Lowry, Justin Lamoureux, Brad Hoshaw, Sarah Benck and Matt Cox. See mattcoxmusic.net for details. Hot Notes The New Lift Lounge celebrates Thanksgiving Eve Wednesday, Nov. 24, at 5 p.m. Internationally-recognized Lincoln transplant Magic Slim serves up his gritty Chicago blues. Slim will be backed by his son Shawn Holt’s Lil’ Slim Blues Band. At 7 p.m., Hector Anchondo returns to play Omaha with the blues band he’s been putting together in Chicago. Thanksgiving night, Nov. 25, the Lil’ Slim Blues Band is at the Zoo after 9 p.m. The Zoo also offers hometown favorites the Kris Lager Band Friday, Nov. 26, after 9 p.m. Cass Brostad has been turning ears and hearts lately with her impassioned songwriting and performances. She’s moving to Texas and holding a farewell show Friday, Nov. 26, at Barley Street Tavern. The date will feature her bands Traveling Mercies and the Family Gram and also be the EP release for Cass Fifty & the Family Gram.

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