How The Happy Slapowitz Toy Bash Saved Christmas

happy Slapowitz Toy BashYou don't usually picture bars, bands, or the term 'slapowitz' when you think of a toy drive, but Happy Slapowitz is Cape Girardeau's funnest, and one of the biggest charity events that lets people give back to the community, and have a good time while they're at it, and it all started 13 years ago with a man named Ryan Eftink, and a simple Christmas party . . .

Twasn't quite the night before Christmas, and all through the house everyone was stirring at Ryan Eftink's Christmas party. But Eftink had different plans for his party guests that year. “If people were just going to come over and drink, they might as well make something of it,” Eftink reflects. Then he got an idea. A brilliant idea. Ryan got a wonderful, brilliant idea! He decided to create a ‘cover charge’ of sorts. Each guest brought one, unwrapped toy to the get-together. That year the humble house party exploded with over 100 people in attendance. Ryan immediately realized that he had stumbled onto something big, and he wanted to take advantage of it.

Ryan had plenty of friends who were willing to help out. Over at the Rude Dog Pub in Downtown Cape they agreed to open their doors for next year’s party. Ryan knew his home wouldn’t be big enough to support it. The only problem was they couldn’t give out free drinks. Instead Eftink called in the services of the Mike Renick Band, who agreed to play for free.

When Rude Dog Pub first opened there was some conflict about what to name it. Two titles had been argued over before ‘Rude Dog’ won it out. To honor the second choice, Eftink named his new event ‘Happy Slapowitz’.

Eftink also had friends at the local radio station. River Radio always broadcasts the Toys For Tots toy drive, and recommended that Eftink donate the toys to the Marines.

Other bars and venues began to join in, taking toys as a cover charge. Every venue down in Cape liked Slapowitz a lot, but Ryan, who lived just north of Downtown, likes it the most.  Today Happy Slapowitz is a Downtown-wide event, supported by Old Town Cape. Bands volunteer to play, and drink specials are offered. Eftink coordinated all the venues, and is as busy as one of Santa’s Elves come Slapowitz time, but he says it’s worth it to help children during the Christmas season, now, please don't ask why; no one quite knows the reason:

“I don’t have kids myself, I just got married a couple of years ago, but I like helping children. I want to help those who can’t help themselves.”

The children who benefit from Toys for Tots aren’t the only ones who are effected by the event. The community's already big heart grew three sizes that day.

“It’s interesting to see someone at the bar who was just drinking beer come in with a bicycle, or a loner who just kind of sat in the corner suddenly get excited and have this big smile on their face. Everyone wants to help.”

The Marines are grateful as well. Last year, Eftink says, was the first year the toy drive brought in so much that they had to give some away to other charities. “Toys for Tots has a limit on the toys they keep. Last year Happy Slapowitz brought in so much that they had to donate some to other local organizations.”

What happens now? Well, in Cape they say that Eftink wants to continue working Happy Slapowtiz and make it as big as he can, so be sure to come down and help make it happen. The 13th annual Happy Slapowitz takes place December 11, at 6:00 p.m. throughout Downtown Cape. Bring and unwrapped toy or cash donation to enter the venues. There are also T-shirts, and a raffle. So bring your ting-tinglers, blue-toopers, and blow your Who-whoopers, and help make this the best Happy Slapowtiz yet.

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