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He's driving force behind gift project

A FedEx driver buys and delivers hundreds of remote-controlled cars and other toys to needy children.

Tampa's own FedEx Santa had another busy season this year spreading holiday cheer to more than 700 area youngsters. And he's still not finished.

"There's no rest for the weary," said Richard Daley, a FedEx driver by occupation and a self-proclaimed Santa by design.

Daley has spent the past three years collecting and donating toys to disadvantaged children. And this year, he said, could be better than last.

"Some of the toys were larger this year," Daley said. "We got some laptop computers and still have some checks" to deposit.

The Jamaican-born Daley started the toy project three years ago after receiving a remote-controlled car _ a first for the then 47-year-old Daley.

He had so much fun with the car that he wanted to share the experience with disadvantaged children. Thus was born Operation Remote Control, a project that keeps Daly busy pretty much year round.

First Daley had to convince Radio Shack at 15023 N Florida Ave. to sell him the cars at roughly half their retail price of about $20 to $60. Then he began distributing fliers to customers on his route, soliciting money for the project.

The first year Daley raised $6500 and bought about 280 remote-controlled cars and trucks. The second year he raised $13,565 and bought 757 toys. This year he raised about $9,500 and bought 720 toys, including some larger toys and trucks, as well as laptop computers.

"We came close to last year and people are still donating," Daley said.

With help from members of his church, Daley began dropping off the toys Dec. 16, making All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg his first stop. It was then on to Tampa's Metropolitan Ministries.

"We'll go to the Shriners Hospital and Northside Mental Health Center," after the New Year said Daley who continues with his FedEx route despite his toy schedule.

Other stops made, or yet to be made, include the Children's Home Inc., Camp Dorothy Thomas, the Joshua House and Hope International Ministries in Tampa.

So, does Daley, who sleeps about four hours a night, show any signs of stopping?

"I'm not slowing down," Daley said. "I'm already thinking about next year.

Daley is also already taking donations for next year. Contributions can be sent to Tampa Covenant Church, 13320 Lake Magdalene Blvd., Tampa, 33618.

_ JACKIE RIPLEY

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