For one family, Firefighters for Kids toy drive saved Christmas

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — The holiday spirit is officially here and this year some local families need a little help putting gifts under the tree. That’s where the Firefighters for Kids Toy Drive comes in and there’s still time for you to help.

Firefighters for Kids has helped make Christmas bright for more than one million kids and last year, Megan Watland’s girls joined that group.

“It was perfect. It really was,” says Watland.

She says Firefighters for Kids made last year’s Christmas special.

“Without the firefighters, I don’t know that we would have had much of a Christmas at all.”

Times were tough as the holidays drew near and she wanted to make it perfect for 10-year-old Kaileigh and 8-year-old Hallie.

“On Christmas morning you see the joy and the wonder on their faces. There’s nothing like that when they’re young. They’re not gonna be like this forever,” she says.

That’s why Bill Russell and his buddies do it.

“We try to give them nice stuff, ‘cause, I mean, the kids deserve it,” the Firefighters for Kids Coordinator says.

For 38 years, this team of mostly retired firefighters and volunteers have collected toys to make the holidays a little sweeter.

Russell laughs and says, “We did 25 families that first year… and it’s just gone to this.”

Every year, the community answers the call for donations.

“All kids need Christmas,” says volunteer and retired mechanic J.R. Lacey.

For Megan Watland, it’s the best gift she could receive.

“It gives them the chance to dream and to wonder and to just be kids,” she says.

Donations are still needed. Right now gifts for boys and girls ages 8 and up are needed the most.

You can drop off your new, unwrapped toys at any Franklin County Fire Station or you can drop by the NBC4 station next Saturday, December 12th from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. The address is 3165 Olentangy River Road.

The Columbus Symphony’s Holiday Pops is this weekend and if you bring a new, unwrapped toy for the Firefighters for Kids toy drive to the show you’ll get a voucher for a free lawn seat to one of this summer’s Picnic with the Pops performances.

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