Hundreds of children from the Banning and Beaumont areas-- and beyond-- have received Christmas gifts this year they may not have had were it not for the local community stepping up to donate to the Spark of Love toy drive.
An estimated 3,000-4,000 toys were collected since Thanksgiving time, through drop-offs at fire stations, and local events.
The drive, hosted each year by Cal Fire/Riverside County Fire Department, made it possible for an estimated 150 Beaumont families-- with an average of 4 kids each-- and another 100 Banning families-- with around 2-3 kids each-- to get presents this year, according to Beaumont Fire Apparatus Engineer Robert Davis, who organizes the event locally.
Each of the kids this year was able to get about four toys each-- two larger items like bikes or remote control cars, and two smaller items like hot wheels, he told Patch.
The school districts selected students who were the most in need of receiving these gifts, and firefighters and volunteers gathered at Wellwood Elementary School in Beaumont and at the Banning Unified School District headquarters to hand the toys out on Thursday.
What's more, because of the generous gifts from the community, Davis says firefighters were able to reach out to some additional families in the area, stretching from Calimesa to Cabazon.
They are also now working with other Pass organizations to distribute some remaining toys via their holiday toy programs, Davis said.
"This has definitely been a successful year with the cooperation of the Riverside County Fire Department and Cal Fire," Davis told Patch.