By TARA ALATORRE
PHOENIX – Santa arrived without his signature sleigh and reindeer when he made his annual toy delivery last Wednesday to the young patients at Maricopa Integrated Health Systems (MIHS) Arizona Children’s Center near Roosevelt and 7th streets on December 19.
Instead Mr. and Mrs. Claus made their grand entrance on a fire truck with the flashing lights and sirens alerting the children and staff at the hospital that Santa had arrived with nearly 6,000 toys that Daisy Mountain Firefighters Charities had collected over the last month.
Daisy Mountain firefighters, volunteers from the charity and MIHS staff formed an assembly line outside the hospital cheerfully unloading thousands of toys from a large moving truck and trailers. Everyone passing down bag after bag of toys down the assembly line, while holiday songs were performed by local musicians and excited children and their families watched with anticipation.
“This would not be possible without a lot of volunteers,” Daisy Mountain Firefighters Charities President Jon Binsbacher said, while speaking at the MIHS toy delivery last week.
Small children too weak to walk or sit up were wheeled outside in Radio Flyer wagons bundled up in blankets, while older kids were pushed out in wheelchairs or beds. Some of the small patients wore tiny masks, others were attached to medical devices, but they all watched with excitement as the mountain of toys formed outside the hospital, while waiting to visit with Santa.
Some children were too sick to leave their beds, but that didn’t stop Santa from visiting every single child inside the hospital. And every single child wore a smile after they received a gift and a hug from Santa, with no mask or illness able to hide the joy in their eyes.
“This is our 11th year and we are just as excited this year as we were the first year,” he said. “It has just grown and grown every year, and we are just thrilled to be a part of it.”
The toy drive originally started because a firefighter’s mom worked at the hospital and identified the need for toys for the children at MIHS during the holiday season.
Today, the annual toy drive is organized and operated by Daisy Mountain Firefighters Charities (DMFC), which mostly exists to support Daisy Mountain Fire and Medical’s firefighters and their families during illness or tragedy.
However, during the holidays DMFC organizes volunteers from the department to collect toys and gift cards at the Anthem Walmart during weekends starting on Black Friday. The charity also donates to Honor Health Deer Valley Mendy’s Place in North Phoenix.
With only five, small stations located in rural New River, Anthem and Black Canyon City, Daisy Mountain Fire and Medical and DMFC yield impressive results that have a big impact on the hospitals.
The charity’s annual donation provides MIHS Children’s Center with enough toys for the whole year, allowing the hospital to give children toys after procedures, or for birthdays and other holidays. MIHS even had to create a separate toy room to store them during the year.
“It just makes us so happy and it is one of my favorite things to do each year,” said Binsbacher, who is also the 100 Club of Arizona’s 2018 Firefighter of the Year, which he earned for his work as president DMFC.
DMFC doesn’t stop with just the Christmas toy drive either.
Besides collecting thousands of toys each year for local children’s hospitals, the charity also adopts local families in need, providing them with toys and food so they can enjoy the holidays despite their current financial situation.
This year DMFC adopted ten families (keeping their identities anonymous) in the New River and Anthem areas, using donated gift cards to purchase Christmas presents and food for each family.
Money was also raised for families through DMFC’s annual Breakfast with Santa event held at the Outlets at Anthem. The Outlets also help DMFC store the massive amount of toys it collects until they can be delivered to the hospitals.
“We’re in a position to facilitate this and we love doing it, but we would not be able to do it without the generosity of everybody that donates up there,” Binsbacher said. “People who live up there in our fire district, the Anthem and New River, Desert Hills area, but also anyone who travels up or down the I-17 that may stop in and donate…very generous and we could not do this without them.”
Santa arrives at the MIHS Arizona Children’s Center with Daisy Mountain Firefighters Charities to deliver toys for Christmas on Dec. 19.
Daisy Mountain Firefighters Charities President and the 100 Club of Arizona’s Firefighter of the Year, Jon Binsbacher speaks at the toy delivery at the MIHS Arizona Children’s Center on Dec. 19.