Calif. firefighters treat low-income children to shopping spree

The fire foundation raised enough money to give 100 children $130 in spending money


By Canan Tasci
The Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

CHINO, Calif — Tears of joy ran down Stacy Totillo's face as she watched her daughter's face light up during a shopping spree at Walmart on Wednesday.

She said it's been an emotional couple years and the atmosphere at home hasn't been the cheeriest with her husband being a cancer survivor, losing her mother and taking care of her 95-year-old grandmother.

But thanks to the Chino Valley Fire District's Chino Valley Fire Foundation's Make a Child Smile event Totillo and her 7-year-old daughter, Samantha, were able to smile and laugh a little.

"You have no idea how grateful I am," said Totillo of Chino Hills. "It's been so hard for us."

One hundred Chino Valley Unified School District students were treated to spend $130 at the Supercenter as part of the foundation's Code Three Delivery program, which raises money all year to sponsor a shopping spree for children who were pre-identified by the district.

Students were bused to the store where they were paired to shop with a uniformed firefighter or a law enforcement officer, get a photo with Santa and Chino Valley Fire's mascot Sparky the Fire Dog and before they left treated to food and entertainment.

"This was the first time I've had a shopping spree," said Samantha, a Litel Elementary School second-grader. "I go shopping with my mom but not by coming in on a bus."

While each child was given $130 to spend, fire officials said many times the men or women who are paired with the child were generous enough to open up their wallet and pay any difference when a child goes over the limit.

This is the 12th annual event hosted by the fire foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting life, safety, and welfare of the public through educational programs, direct assistance, and financial support of charitable organizations, victims of tragic events and injured firefighters, according to the fire district's website.

"This is one of our favorite events to do because you can see a direct impact," said Shane Stocking, firefighter paramedic. "Have you seen Samantha's smile? That's what we're here for."

The Chino Valley Fire Foundation and various community members came together in 1994 with the common goal of helping people during difficult times while promoting a range of fire and life safety messages to the residents of Chino, Chino Hills, and surrounding unincorporated areas, according to the website.

Several programs, including the Make a Child Smile programs, Adopt a Family, Champ Camp sponsorship, Risk Watch, and Spark of Love Toy Drive are sponsored by the foundation.

Among all the first responders and police officers lending a hand to the kids were some businesses in the Chino Valley, including employees of Roscoe's Famous Deli in Chino Hills.

The Chino Hills-based business has been in the community for six years and donated to the Make a Child Smile event as well as Boys Republic.

Owner Nick Montano said he's been donating to Make a Child Smile for six years and will continue to do so until he sells the store.

"This season is about giving and I can't find a better way to make a child smile," he said. "Any time I can be involved I sign up. We do a lot in the community and this is my favorite charity to give to hands down."

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(c)2013 the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin (Ontario, Calif.)

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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