Toys donated in honor of slain Colo. firefighter

Daryl Ritz was killed in May and spent much of his 33-year firefighting career collecting and donating toys for children

By Kaitlin Durbin
The Gazette

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Death couldn't stop Daryl Ritz's giving spirit.

In memory of the firefighter's decades of charity, the Colorado Springs Fire Department donated a fire truck-load of presents to children at UCHealth Memorial Hospital Central Tuesday. They called it the 1st Annual Daryl Ritz Memorial Toy Drive.

Ritz was killed in May and had spent much of his 33-year firefighting career before that collecting and donating toys for children.

Gifts of puzzles, coloring books, Legos and remote-controlled vehicles will be used in therapy sessions or distributed to patients in the pediatric department who may be spending the holiday in the hospital.

It's what Ritz would have wanted, according to his family, who was there to celebrate the donation.

"He would be smiling right now. I know he is," Ritz's daughter Jessica Lawyer said.

Ritz, 58, was known in the community for his charity before he was shot to death May 17 on his family's 12825 Judge Orr Rd. property, after reportedly confronting stranger Gustavo Torres-Gonzalez for trespassing and possibly stealing. The two struggled before Ritz tried to run and was gunned down, a GoPro camera mounted to the dash of Ritz's vehicle showed.

The toy drive is a way to turn that negative "into something very positive that can help improve childrens' lives," Lawyer said.

Ritz had a soft spot for children.

For nearly two decades he participated in the Hot Times Kool Cars charity, which raised $20 million for Children's Hospital's burn center. He also organized a toy drive from 2010 to 2012, which sent carts of toys to a local charity.

Toy drive organizers firefighter Terry Murphy and retired paramedic Carolyn Frick "wanted to do something to carry on the tradition and his memory," Murphy said. Murphy had worked with Ritz for about three years at Station 20 before Ritz retired in 2013.

He hopes the toy drive will continue from year to year, he said.

"It means the world to us," Lawyer said. "Children were a passion for my dad."

Ritz's wife, Cindy, speaking through fire Capt. Steve Wilch, said it would be a great honor if others in the community also donated toys to the hospital in remembrance of him.

Ritz's alleged killer, Torres-Gonzalez, 43, remains in jail awaiting trial on a first-degree murder charge, among others. A second person, Christopher Laxton, also was charged related to Ritz's death.

Torres-Gonzalez's jury trial is scheduled for May 1. Laxton pleaded guilty to accessory to a crime and is scheduled for sentencing May 9, according to court records.

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