navy polo shirt Firefighters’ Christmas Toy Fund Telethon takes off
What a difference a year can make.
Buried under the weight of a nasty winter storm, the 2013 edition of the Falls Firefighters Christmas Toy Fund Telethon struggled to bring in critically needed cash.
“It was a lot gloomier last year,” Falls Fire Department Capt. John Castellani admitted. “The mail donations were down, the snow storm really hurt us with the telethon, it was tough.”
But even with gloomy winter skies overhead on Saturday, the marque Falls charity appeared to be on the way to a significant recovery.
“The mail in donations are way up (from last year),” Castellani said. “And it’s carrying over today. People are donating like crazy. The outpouring of community support has been great.”
The telethon creates a chance for folks to give in multiple ways. Donations can be phoned in or dropped off at the telethon site at Niagara Falls High School.
The high school is also the site for the toy fund’s annual basket auction. This year, folks flocked to the auction that saw a record number of available baskets.
“Tickets sales (for the basket auction) are double what we usually have, and that’s just half way through the day,” Castellani said. “The business community really came up with some great stuff for the baskets.”
A nearly full parking lot and a steady stream of people checking out the baskets seemed to support the toy fund chair’s assessment.
At the same time, Castellani said, many of the performers on the televised telethon also came bearing donations.
“There were 12 dance studios that provided performances and they all brought donations. They were generous beyond what you would have expected,” he said. “These are mostly children and they just give so much.”
Exhausted from what he called a busy couple of nights at the fire hall, Castellani smiled and said he could shake that off as he watched the collection totals on the telethon tote board continue to climb. Two thirds of the way through the program, the toy fund chair noted this year’s telethon total had already exceeded the 2013 numbers.
“Tired as I am, I feel better than last year,” he said with a broad smile. “It seems like everybody has been giving, even a dollar here and there and every dollar helps.”
And while fundraising for the toy fund has been better this year, fund leaders say that is critical because the need has not diminished either.
“We’re trying to met that need both for toys and for those in need of more, like warm clothing for the winter,” Castellani said. “(Those who benefit) are children just like ours. The only difference between them is their circumstances and in this season of giving, they should receive a toy on Christmas morning.