Toy exchange to help in youth violence in Winston-Salem

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Every year around Christmas, Ben Piggott has his hands full with bikes, Barbie dolls, games and other gifts.

They're the kind of toys he gives away in exchange for ones he says that promote violence.

“Those messages can be subliminal and what we're trying to do is take the subliminal message out of the kids’ heads,” Piggott said.

Toy guns, toy knives and violent video games all get turned in every year through his event Peace Toys for War Toys.

“Exchange them for educational toys, bikes, computers,” Piggott said.

He started the event 25 years ago after his brother was shot and killed.

“My brother was killed by his best friend,” he said.

Since then, ending youth violence has been his life's work.

“One bad decision can ruin your life,” he said.

Event organizers say those bad decisions can form early with something as simple as a plastic gun.

“We don't want to give them that mindset that it's OK to act as if they're hurting someone,” said Emerald Bowman, senior special projects coordinator for Winston-Salem’s Recreation and Parks Department.

Last year, Piggott says about 60 toy guns were brought in and about 50 violent games.

This year, he's hoping for even more.

“We need to have more love,” Piggott said.

The toy exchange will take place from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday in the education building at the Winston-Salem Fairgrounds.

There will also be a moment of silence and a vigil during the event for young people who have lost their lives to violence.

Toys that will be given away at the event have been donated.

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