For $6,425, you can buy a lot of toys.
About a dozen personnel from Anaheim Fire & Rescue found that out first hand Wednesday, Dec. 12, as they zoomed down aisles at the Walmart at 440 N. Euclid St. in Anaheim.
The one-hour shopping spree was a last-minute push to collect as many toys as possible for the 26th annual Spark of Love Toy Drive, an effort by ABC7 and The Orange County Fire Chiefs Association, as well as numerous other partners, to deliver Christmas cheer to underprivileged kids throughout Southern California.
Today — Friday, Dec. 14 – the public is invited to visit the parking lot at Honda Center, 2695 E. Katella Ave., Anaheim, between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. to drop off toys that will be packed into buses bound for a collection center and, ultimately, to households in Orange and surrounding counties.
Earlier this month, AF&R personnel held a toy drive as part of the agency’s annual participation in the Spark of Love event.
Firefighters, cadets, and other AF&R employees look forward every year to Spark of Love.
“I’m a 50-year-old kid,” Deputy Chief Tim O’Hara quipped as he stood by his shopping cart, recalling how he loved to play the musical game “Rock Band” with his kids.
Next to him stood Fire Marshal Allan Hogue, who was delighted to shop for a boy ages 1 to 3. Hogue has a 14-month-old grandson.
Each AFR&R shopper had about $430 to burn on toys.
ABC7 donated $5,000 for the Walmart shopping spree; the Orange County Fire Chiefs Association donated a total of $10,000 to all agencies and Anaheim Fire & Rescue received $1,425.
Battalion Chief Alan Long said AF&R personnel are eager to volunteer for Spark of Love because there are many needy families in Orange County and beyond.
His assignment: buy $430 worth of toys for a boy ages 12-15.
Long, a father of three boys, knew just where to go:
The sporting goods aisle.
“I’ve been through this age a few times,” Long said as he put a football and soccer ball into his shopping cart.
He added: “I’d probably ruffle some feathers if I bought a BB gun, right?”
Community Risk Reduction Officer Andy Torres purchased several “Avengers: Infinity Wars” character toys. He’s a huge fan of the superhero movie franchise.
“This is a suit for Ironman so he can beat the Hulk,” he said of the Hulkbuster toy figure.
“It’s pretty cool,” Torres said of the Spark of Love Toy Drive. “Not every kid gets Christmas toys.”
During December, the public has been invited to drop off new, unwrapped toys at any fire station in Orange County.
The Orange County Toy Collaborative is a partnership between Orange County Social Services, St. Vincent de Paul, Orange County fire agencies and the Marines. The firefighters and Marines help collect the toys; social services and St. Vincent de Paul operate the warehouse and the volunteers. Every non-profit agency that will receive toys will have volunteers work the warehouse. On a daily basis there at least 30 volunteers operating the warehouse.
Over the past 26 years, the Spark of Love Toy Drive has collected more than 10 million toys.
Assistant Fire Marshal Lindsey Young, a mother of two boys, ages 3 and 5, got assigned to purchase gifts for a girl ages 1 to 3.
Young was in unfamiliar territory.
She bought a Mrs. Potato Head and other girly items as she shopped alongside Fire Inspector Alicia Badosa.
“A Farmer and Tractor Barbie, yes!” Badosa exclaimed.
Badosa spotted other gift idea.
“Polly Pocket!” she said. “Those things are still around?”
“Everybody loves a good troll, right?” Badosa said.
Solomon Sandez, an assistant manager at the Walmart, enjoyed Wednesday’s event.
“It’s a pleasure to work with the fire department,” Sandez said. “The most important part of the holidays is making families happy.”
A young boy, Charlie, 5, walked up to Young.
“Who are you?” he asked her. “What do you do?”
“I work for the fire department,” Young told Charlie.
“That’s cool,” the boy responded.
It certainly was. Charlie was wearing clothing bearing the likeness of one of his favorite TV characters: Marshall, a Dalmatian puppy on “PAW Patrol” who likes to ride on the Fire Fightin’ Firetruck.
A timely choice of clothing, Charlie.