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Giving back: DMFD toy drive brings Christmas joy to hospitalized children


Elizabeth Medora

NORTH VALLEY – It’s Christmas all over, and that includes Valley children’s hospitals, where Santa made a special stop on Monday to make sure that these kiddos get a chance to feel some Christmas joy and play with new toys.

Every year, the Daisy Mountain Fire Department brings Christmas directly to these hospitalized kids, with thousands of toys being delivered to Arizona Children’s Center at Maricopa Integrated Health Systems, as well as HonorHealth’s Mendy’s Place and Sonoran Emergency Center. The kids in the hospital get a personal visit from DMFD’s own Santa, Captain Dave Jensen, who shares the Christmas spirit with everyone around him. He offers each child a toy, a joyful greeting, and the chance to be a happy, excited kid at Christmas, no matter if they’re in a hospital bed.

This Christmas tradition starts with a toy drive, run by Daisy Mountain Firefighters Charities. Firefighters, healthcare workers, and volunteers team together to help collect, sort, and deliver toys to help sick kiddos have a merry Christmas. Through the toy drive, enough toys are collected to help the hospital stock up for the whole year, so that kids undergoing a painful procedure in the hospital can have a new toy to comfort them through the process.

“This toy drive started in 2008 originally by two of our firefighters who wanted to give back to the community and help those less fortunate during the holiday season,” explained Jon Binsbacher, DMFD firefighter and charity volunteer. “After two years, and the formation of the charities, the toy drive was officially adopted as a charity event.”

Binsbacher described the joy of the kids who get a visit from Santa during the toy delivery.

“The look on the faces of the kids, and the parents, is priceless. They are so sincere and thankful of the many gifts they receive and the good news is that even after the holidays, the hospitals storage rooms are so full, they are able to continue to hand out toys all year long,” Binsbacher said.

 Jillian McNulty, Interim Director for the HonorHealth Deer Valley and Sonoran Centers, said that the Sonoran Health and Emergency Center received enough toys from DMFD in 2015 to last the entire year. She called the toys a “comfort measure” for kids in the hospital.

“Daisy Mountain is just fantastic!” McNulty said. “The kids are going to be ecstatic.”

Anything that brings comfort to hospitalized kids is a blessing. The Arizona Burn Center is located at Maricopa Integrated Health Systems; children with burns have to undergo repeated painful procedures, and a new teddy bear or other toy to hang on to helps make these procedures a little better for these kiddos.

Collecting toys for these children is a team effort, made possible by dedicated volunteers who truly care about their community and the children at these hospitals.

“Volunteers from DMFD, the hospitals, the community and on-duty firefighters collect in front of Walmart for four consecutive weekends,” Binsbacher said. Local organizations, including Daisy Mountain Veterans, D.L. Jones & Associates, and others, also collect toys and drop them off to DMFD stations for the toy drive. The Outlets at Anthem donates space for storage during the toy drive. Binsbacher also thanked Maricopa Integrated Health System and HonorHealth hospitals for their help and support.

“Again, it’s a team effort and it certainly would not be possible without such a generous community. We can’t thank the volunteers and the community enough!” Binsbacher emphasized.

Many firefighters’ families help with the toy drive, and the delivery is a family event. Denise Primera and her husband Danny, who is a DMFD firefighter and volunteer, and their children all help with the toy drive. Primera helps with everything from driving the trailer full of toys to categorizing the toys to make it simpler to find the right toy for each child.

Primera shared that, for her family, the toy drive offers them a way to put their Christian beliefs into practice: that Christmas is about Christ, who came to serve others.

“Our family tries to serve and help out,” Primera said. “It’s been a great thing for our kids.”

Primera noted that her oldest daughter has been volunteering with the toy drive since she was in 7th grade. Her daughter, now 21, was excited to help with the toy delivery on Monday and share the spirit of giving once again.

Primera has seen firsthand how much the toys that go to these hospitals mean to the kids who receive them. When her daughter was injured and needed stitches, the staff at Mendy’s Place gave her a bear that she has kept ever since.

The community strongly supports the toy drive, with donations of toys and money. Primera recounted that a few years ago, firefighters were shopping for toys for the drive with donated funds, and when they went to pay, another shopper swiped his credit card and paid for the carts full of toys.

“It’s a blessing to see the generosity of the community!” Primera said.

Binsbacher noted that the toy drive grows bigger every year and thanked local residents for their continued support.

“This year alone we collected roughly four thousand toys with a retail value of over eighty-four thousand dollars,” Binsbacher reported.

“This event is all about the community. Without the support of the citizens of the Daisy Mountain Fire District (Anthem, New River and Desert Hills) this toy drive would not be possible and not be as successful as it is. Daisy Mountain Firefighters Charities facilitates the drive but the citizens are who make it such a success. Thank you so much!” Binsbacher emphasized.

And from the community, thank you, Daisy Mountain Firefighters Charities, for bringing the Christmas spirit to the children who need it most.