Anaheim Fire & Rescue helped make the 22nd Spark of Love Toy Drive a huge success, filling the equivalent of 27 buses with toys Friday at the annual Stuff-A-Bus event held outside the Honda Center in Anaheim.
The event — sponsored by the Orange County Transportation Authority, ABC7, Honda Center and the Anaheim Ducks — culminated the Spark of Love Christmas toy drive that began more than two decades ago as a partnership between ABC7 and firefighters throughout Orange, Riverside, Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Ventura counties.
This year’s record-shattering haul of an estimated 75,000 toys is being distributed this week to children in need throughout Southern California. The toys filled 25 Orange County Transportation Authority buses and two flatbed trucks packed with bikes — the equivalent of 27 OCTA buses.
Last year’s drive netted the equivalent of 18 OCTA buses.
All day Friday, Dec. 19, from 4:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., the public dropped by the event to bring new, unwrapped toys or sports equipment bound for children in need of some extra Christmas cheer.
Many snapped pictures with event host Garth Kemp, a meteorologist for ABC7 who was dressed up as an elf.
Personnel from several Orange County fire agencies dropped off toys they’ve been collecting for the drive since after Thanksgiving. There were a lot of Olafs and other “Frozen” characters this year, along with small Barbie dolls, soccer balls and oversized Teddy bears.
“It’s incredibly inspiring to see the outpouring of generosity throughout the day for the Stuff-A-Bus event,” said Eric Carpenter, an OCTA spokesman.
“From the mom who brings her young children to donate one or two toys to the small business owners who bring a trunk full – or truck full – every donation is appreciated knowing those toys will bring a smile to a child during the holidays,” Carpenter said.
The afternoon included a presentation by the Orange County Fire Chiefs Association of toys purchased from funds donated by Disneyland Resort.
The Orange County Toy Collaborative has successfully collected and distributed more than 7.5 million toys over the past two decades in support of Spark of Love and Toys for Tots donation programs, according to an Anaheim Fire & Rescue news release.
The agencies and organizations involved in the toy collaborative include the Orange County Fire Chiefs Association, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve-Toys for Tots, Orange County Social Services Agency’s Operation Santa Claus, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Orange County, the Spark of Love Toy Drive, the Anaheim Ducks and the Orange County Transportation Authority.
The Orange County Fire Chiefs Association includes the leaders of 11 different fire agencies within the county including Anaheim, Brea, Costa Mesa, Fountain Valley, Fullerton, Garden Grove, Huntington Beach, Laguna Beach, Newport Beach, Orange, and Orange County.
“Just five years ago, it was a big deal that we were able to stuff five OCTA buses full of toys,” Carpenter said. “So to see this event grow so much is astounding. Of all the places that KABC-7 collects toys throughout the season, it’s fantastic to see Orange County continue to set records with its giving spirit.”