Firefighters launch annual toy drive
BULLHEAD CITY — It’s been 35 years since Rick Southey set out to bring some holiday joy to local children.
That effort by the then-
engineer led to the creation of the Bullhead City Firefighters’ Holiday Toy Drive.
It began as a way to provide toys for about 100 children in the city, said BHCFD Capt. Jeff Jackson, who has run the program for the past 10 years.
Now, it serves about 1,500 children a year, and benefits children as far away as Searchlight, Nevada, Yucca and Lake Havasu City.
Jackson estimated that the toy drive has given $2.5 million in toys since 1983.
This year, he said, each child will receive about $120 in presents: one large gift, five small gifts and a game.
Each year, Jackson said, the firefighters give out about 300 bicycles.
The children are vetted through The Salvation Army; those falling below the federal poverty level are automatically qualified, Jackson said.
The toy drive has grown because the community has seen its work and continued to support it, he said.
Firefighters hold several fundraisers to support the drive, including a Thanksgiving morning turkey trot, a Dec. 8 softball tournament, a raffle and toy collection events at several local businesses.
On Saturdays and Sundays from Dec. 9 to Dec. 23, firefighters will conduct a couple of on-site promotions at Walmart, 2840 Highway 95, accepting donations of cash or unwrapped toys in their boots.
Guests at Chili’s Dec. 15 will witness a push-up challenge — from 6 to 8 p.m., firefighters will do two push-ups for every dollar donated to the toy drive.
Jackson said last year’s push-up challenge raised about $1,000.
The Firefighters’ Holiday Toy Drive last year gained nonprofit status, meaning donations to the organization are now tax-deductible.
Jackson said the effort is related to what he feels is a special relationship between firefighters and children.
“Christmas in general is always a tough time for people,” he said. “Whatever a firefighter can do to put a smile on a kid’s face gives us a feeling of satisfaction.”
Sponsors of the program include RentCo, Wash Me Car Washes, Mohave Green, Aquatic Pools and Landscape, 111 Auto, Khatib Family Practice PLC, Gordy’s Auto Body and Eagle Motorcycles.
“Sponsors helped build the program to do what it does today,” Jackson said. “Before, we were scraping by. Now, we’re hitting smaller communities.”
In addition to helping Fort Mohave and Mohave Valley, the Firefighters’ Holiday Toy Drive now makes donations to other children’s charities, which Jackson said will expand in the future.
Toy distribution will take place Dec. 22 and 23. Local families will pick their gifts up at Fire Station No. 1, and toys for other children will be delivered to their communities.
Families may register their children (13 and younger) in person at The Salvation Army, 1461 Palma Road. Sign-ups are from 9 a.m. to noon Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays until Dec. 14. Anyone wishing to apply should bring photo ID for the head of household, proof of identification showing date of birth (such as school or immunization records or birth certificates) for the children in the household, proof of address and proof of income.
Jackson said there is no cap on the number of children who can be assisted; 1,500 is just an estimate.
“If it goes over, we’ll still be good,” he said. “Nobody will go without.”