Rusty Garrett thanks Central Texans for making Food For Families 2022 the most successful ever

Published: Nov. 22, 2022 at 4:59 PM CST
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - Beloved weatherman Rusty Garrett, sidelined from participating in person for this year’s Food For Families food drive as he battles esophageal cancer, is thanking the thousands of Central Texans who made it the most successful day its 33-year history.

Food For Families gathered 3.87 million pounds of food items this year, a new record. That is not the final figure because the online donations portal will remain open through midnight on November 30th. CLICK HERE to donate.

Rusty had only missed one food drive in 32 years after once contracting the flu before cancer left him unable to participate this year.

Rusty watched the food drive from his home like thousands of other viewers Friday, and he was not only touched by the generosity he witnessed, but also by the words of encouragement directed toward him.

“Word cannot express my gratitude for all the hard work of Central Texans in making this the most successful Food for Families in history,” Garrett said.

“While I wasn’t able to be there, I did tune in and witness the outpouring of support you had for me in my absence and, boy, did it warm my heart.”

In Food For Families’ inaugural year in 1990, Rusty was stationed at a donation site in Temple, but every year following, Rusty led the charge in Gatesville, where Central Texans turned out in droves to donate record amounts year after year.

Gatesville missed Rusty’s presence, but went above and beyond to make sure his spirit of giving was honored.

The site had a life size cardboard cutout of the smiling forecaster.

School aged kids brought out a sign that said, “We love Rusty!”

And just about everyone who gave had a word of love and support for him.

“We would like to remember all the good times we’ve had in this fire station during the Food for Families drive with Rusty. I just want him to know that our thoughts and our prayers are with him,” one volunteer said.

One of Rusty’s nurses, Jackie Gauger, who works in Temple at Dr. Lucas Wong’s office, came out to volunteer in Rusty’s honor.

“I’m his registered nurse and I’ve been keeping track of Mr. Garrett with his Facebook feeds and it’s just heartwarming that this is still near and dear to his heart even though he can’t participate, and so I wanted to step up and do that for him in his honor and so that’s why I and my husband both are here to volunteer most of the day,” she said.

A group of Masons who visited the KWTX-TV drop off site went on air with a message in unison telling Rusty they loved him.

One of the most touching moments came at the drive-through location at Channel 10 where local businessman Steve Beard and his wife, Alyce, dropped off a check in the amount of $10,000 in Rusty’s name.

Steve Beard and his wife, Alyce
Steve Beard and his wife, Alyce(Courtesy Photo)

Steve also battled esophageal cancer, diagnosed in 2011, and said he reached out to Rusty after learning about his diagnosis to encourage him and let him know he could beat it.

His wife, Alyce, had the idea to donate the money in Rusty’s name.

“It’s a good feeling and we’re more than happy to have done it in his honor,” Steve said when reached by phone. “It’s a great cause.”

Rusty said he missed seeing all the smiling faces in Gatesville this year and while he wasn’t feeling up to being on camera for this interview, he concluded his written statement with a challenge for the Christmas season.

Rusty’s led the charge in collecting toys for those in need for our annual Toys for Tots campaign since 1990, but he has major surgery in the coming weeks which will keep him sidelined.

He’s hopeful Central Texans will once again fill the void.

“It’s because of your support, my faith in God and my family, I believe I’ll be back for Food for Families in the future. In the meantime, thank you for doing what you do best - taking care of each other. Now, let’s go do the same for Toys for Tots!”

Toys for Tots will kick off Friday with Brady Taylor at Wal Mart on Hewitt Drive from 5 p.m to 7 p.m.