Fort Walton Beach firefighters are helping Santa again this year with their “Christmas for the Kids” toy drive. This will be the sixth year for the toy drive, which last year helped bring holiday cheer to more than 140 children.
This year firefighters have a goal of bringing a merrier Christmas to 200 children and have been working with local schools and churches this fall to identify families in need, said the event’s organizer, Fort Walton Beach Fire Department Driver/Engineer James Freudenberg.
The children are given a wish list where they identify their age, gender, likes, and dislikes, and Santa’s helpers use this list to select gifts for them.
“The goal is to give every kid something they want, something they need, and something educational, something they can learn from,” said Freudenberg.
To that end, firefighters are currently collecting new, unopened toys, sports gear, books, clothes, hygiene products, wrapping paper, tape and other gift items for children ranging in age from newborn to 16 years old.
They have put donation boxes in about 50 local businesses. (see photo for list of participating businesses)
Firefighters have also teamed up with some businesses to collect toys at the following special events:
- Friday, Dec. 8 (10 am - 2 pm) United Fidelity Bank is holding a toy drive
- Saturday, Dec. 9 (8 am) Run With It will be collecting toys at their Reindeer Dash in downtown Fort Walton Beach
- Saturday, Dec. 9 (8 am -1 pm) Fort Walton Beach Farmers’ Market (Ferry Road SE)
- Dec. 1-17 Toyota of Fort Walton Beach will be holding a “Stuff the Tundra” event
- Saturday, Dec. 16 (9 am – 3 pm) Santa’s Firehouse Cruz-Thru Toy Drive, come drive through the fire station, meet the firefighters and take a picture with mascot “Sparky the Firedog” and enjoy hot cocoa and donut holes courtesy of Okaloosa Donuts.
Freudenberg said the toy boxes will be collected on Dec. 18-19 and volunteers will begin wrapping gifts and filling the children’s Christmas wish lists. The families will have three options for receiving their gifts.
- Parents can pick up the gifts and wrapping paper before Christmas.
- Parents can bring their children to a party at the Fire Station, which will be decorated for the holidays, and spend some time visiting with Santa and Mrs. Claus.
- Parents can arrange to have the gifts delivered to their homes.
Longtime toy drive supporter Step One Automotive has offered a courtesy vehicle to shuttle families to and from the Fire Station event.
If you would like to support the toy drive with monetary donations, please bring cash or checks directly to the station. If you would like to help with wrapping or delivery of toys or have any other questions, contact James Freudenberg at 850-287-6958 or email@example.com.