Children from Great Brook Valley will see their Christmas wishes come true thanks to the efforts of Worcester comedian Orlando Baxter and other local comedians as they perform a two-hour comedy show tonight, Wednesday, Dec. 23, to help collect toys for children in need.
Baxter, a graduate of South High Community School and the College of the Holy Cross, and who grew up in Great Brook Valley, is hosting the show for the sixth straight year and expects at least a dozen comics to perform.
The sixth annual Toys for Tacoma will donate toys to the Worcester Comprehensive Child Care Center at 160 Tacoma St.
“When I was a kid, growing up in Great Brook Valley, I went to that daycare center from age 5 to about age 13 or 14. It was a very important and special [place] for me. With all of the turmoil going on in my family at the time, that was my escape from home and a place where I made a lot of great friends. I was always around staff that really cared about me and kept me positive,” Baxter said.
“When I got older, and especially when I started doing comedy, I wanted to do something that would give back to the program that was such a big part of my life.”
Other comedians scheduled to perform include local favorites James Dorsey, Nick Chambers, and Marty Caproni, as well as Mike Murray [aka the Deaf Comic], Reece Cotton, Zenobia Del Mar, Big Moe, and more.
Baxter hopes that the toy drive proves to Great Brook Valley kids that not only can you make your dreams come true but you can also give back to your community.
“I want the kids to know that I was just like them. I was in that program too. I’m not rich and famous, but I’m still doing something that I feel is positive and I want those kids to see that. Hopefully, when they get older, they can do the same thing,” Baxter said.
Earlier this week, Baxter had to scramble to find a new venue for Toys for Tacoma after plans to have it at a venue in Auburn fell through.
Baxter was able to secure The Compass Tavern in Worcester to host this year’s event, and owner Dave Domenick said he was looking forward to the show.
“We just found out late Sunday afternoon that we were having it. I’m thrilled. Orlando’s excellent. I’ve worked with him before when I owned another bar. It’s awesome. I’m very happy,” Domenick said.
“Wednesday night should be busy with no school on Thursday and a lot of companies aren’t going in. I’m expecting Wednesday night to be like a Friday night here. It should be great.”
The past few years, Baxter has traveled the world performing standup comedy and has landed regular work in England and Switzerland.
In 2014, Baxter was one of two American comics selected to participate as a finalist in the Montreux Comedy Festival in Switzerland.
This year, Baxter performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland and ended up being discovered and signed by a manager in England.
Baxter will head to London in May to work on material before a monthlong stay in Scotland next August. Last month, Baxter spent a week in South Africa and performed at the Johannesburg International Comedy Festival.
This year’s Toys for Tacoma starts at 8 tonight at the Compass Tavern, 19 Harding St. Music will be provided by DJ Chuck Chillin. The price of admission is one unwrapped toy for children ages 4 to 12.