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10th annual Toy Party: A Holiday Soiree Survival Guide

For 10 years, the city's gay, lesbian, gay-friendly and children's charitable fundraising communities have banded together on the first Sunday in December to don their holiday finery and collect thousands and thousands of toys for metro-area kids in need.  The non-profit For the Kid in All of Us will spend the rest of this month distributing the gifts to dozens and dozens of local charities who serve metro area children. But inevitably, when you try and pack that many immaculately groomed party guests clutching Barbie Dreamhouses into a space even as enormous as AmericasMart Building 3 downtown, a few rules need to apply to ensure the party's success. For the Kid in All of Us president Alison Hall offers attendees a few helpful tips below.

Be prepared: As always, the price of admission into the multi-level holiday soiree flowing with gratis cocktails is one new unwrapped toy with a retail value of $20 or more. What's new this year is a $5 admission charge at the entrance in addition to your toy donation. How well prepared you are at arrival could spell the difference between getting inside the party or spending the evening clustered on a downtown sidewalk giving directions to hung over Alabama football fans seeking directions to the Hooter's on Peachtree. Bring your toy and cash money, preferably a crisp $5 bill. Sure, there will be credit card machines to run your obnoxious Am Ex black card, but there's a faster line for folks carrying cash. "It's just a fact of life that everything gets more expensive," explains Hall. "We have to pay for the event and any extra goes to our beneficiaries. Everyone gets to come in for the cost of a toy, eat, drink and enjoy the entertainment that we have. But we still have to pay for everything that's not donated. We thought $5 was a reasonable price. We will be set up to process your credit card and there's also an ATM machine but when you're talking about 4,000 to 5,000 people, common sense dictates things will be easier if you have that $5 bill in your hand ready to go."

Arrive Early: This year, the doors and the bars open promptly at 5 p.m. instead of 5:30. Of course, with the ensemble you've been assembling since your hi-larious (and completely original) Honey Boo Boo Halloween costume went to the dry cleaners, you probably want to make an entrance like Eliza Doolittle at the Ascot opening race. Still, arriving early assures you a premium of eyeballs taking in your attire and maximum networking time. Unless, of course, you want to while away the hours at Toy Party, Standing and Modeling for the tourists wearing the buffalo wing sauce-stained Roll Tide! hoodies outside.

Splurge a Little: Each year, some ungracious Toy Party attendees spend the evening clicking their tongues because the bartenders working tirelessly at the fundraiser didn't break a land speed record making your free vodka and cranberry. This year for $50, party organizers will sell you a taste of the VIP experience via an Ultra Lounge pass where you have a designated area for people-watching on the main level and your own bar staff. "It's a great way for us to give people a taste of the VIP experience and the VIP level of giving," says Hall. "Hopefully, as they begin growing in their lives, they'll remember us and move on up the donor level later."

Splurge a Lot: The $250 VIP Experience offers donors your own premium bar, hors d'oeuvres, a commemorative gift, your own separate appreciation cocktail event and a live painting session with performance painter and "America's Got Talent" finalist David Garibaldi.

Do Some Holiday Shopping: With many attendees focused on perfecting the art of  en masse air kissing, the event's silent auction items often go undiscovered  and waay under-bid. It's a great way to shop for unique holiday gifts while donating to a good cause. "I was stunned when I saw some of the silent auction items this year," Hall previews. "We have some amazingly generous people donating great things."

Think About the Older Kids: Bring some teen-centric gifts or a Walmart or Target gift card. Says Hall: "We serve a lot of beneficiary organizations, mostly younger kids and lots of pre-school age kids but this year we're also serving many organizations such as Lost-n-Found Youth, which serves LGBT youth who are homeless and many of these kids are older. A lot of the organizations have kids 14, 15, up to 18 years old that they serve. It's important not to forget them. We typically give them the gift cards."

Donate: Even if your jam-packed iCal of seasonal social obligations doesn't allow you to attend this year's Toy Party, you can still make a local kid's holiday brighter with an online donation or by dropping off a toy to one of these Toy Party distribution sites.

The 10th annual Toy Party takes place Sunday, Dec. 2 from 5 to 9 p.m. at AmericasMart Building 3. For details, go to the fundraiser's Facebook event page.