My Cause

SF Firefighters Play Santa Claus

By Julissa James

Take two of the things kids love most, put them together and voilà: You have the San Francisco
Firefighters Toy Program. The toy drive, now entering its 70th year, is one of the oldest in the country, with an unwavering mission to ensure no child goes without a present over the holidays. Spearheaded by San Francisco Firefighters Union Local 798, it’s supported exclusively through donations — collecting barrels of toys at businesses and events, and distributing them to thousands of children across The City. The drive embodies the spirit of the season as well as the group’s commitment to inclusivity, highlighted by its ethnic doll drive. Representation is important, and the firefighters strive to ensure that kids are able to enjoy gifts that reflect the Bay Area’s fabulous diversity.

Founders: In 1949, a group of off-duty firefighters eager to make an impact in the community launched the SF Firefighters Toy Program, which remains faithful to the vision of its founding members nearly seven decades later.

The good Samaritans in charge: Sally Casazza chairs the Toy Program, which is operated by San Francisco Firefighters Local 798, led by President Tom O’Connor.

Biggest supporters: The SF Police Officers Association, the SF Fire Credit Union, the Federal Credit Union, AT&T, St. Francis Yacht Club and the Academy of Art University. 

Impact: The program reaches 31,000 families and roughly 40,000 children per year, donating gifts to individuals, hospitals, pediatric AIDS units, children’s cancer wards, shelters and schools.

Inspiration: Firefighters have a unique, first-hand understanding of trauma  and the comfort simple items can bring to children in need. “The Toy Program is making sure no child goes without a toy,” Casazza says. 

How you can help: Donate gifts, funds, time or host a holiday party on behalf of the program. For more information on how to get involved, contact Casazza personally at 415-244-1984, or visit www. sffirefighterstoys.org.

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