Niagara Gazette

November 17, 2013

Falls firefighters gear up for a busy season of fundraising to support the Firefighters Toy Fund

By Rick Pfeiffer
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — The need for the Niagara Falls Firefighters Christmas Toy Fund never goes away.

Neither does the need to raise the money necessary to provide for the fund’s core programs of toys for kids, winter clothing for the needy and the annual senior citizen’s dinner.

“No, (fundraising) never gets easier,” said Falls Fire Capt. John Castellani, the Toy Fund chairman. “And the need is continuing to grow.”

As the holiday seasons approach, Castellani noted that the fund ramps up its efforts to make folks aware of the need for continued giving. 

“Because we (fundraise) every year, it’s hard not to sound repetitive and you don’t want to become background noise,” he said. “But I think the mission of the Toy Fund is pretty pure and people can relate to it. 

“It sells itself.”

In 2012, the Toy Fund was able to reach its fundraising goal and, in Castellani’s words, “fill all our orders and take care of business.” With another successful motorcycle run during the summer, the fund entered November on target to meet its 2013 goal.

The fund maintains a large mailing list of regular donors and letters, seeking support this year, have gone out in recent weeks. However, the response to that mailing has been below normal.

“We’re hoping people are just a little late in replying to us,” Castellani said. “Our message is, if you’re still considering (donating), please give as you have in the past.”

Within the last week, the fund’s annual Firefighter and Child Logo campaign kicked off in local stores, restaurants and bars. A visit by Castellani to Latina’s on Pine Avenue on Saturday left the chairman feeling encouraged.

“It looked like they had already sold between 80 to 100 of them and they were hanging in the store,” he said. “They’re challenging themselves to break the $1,000 mark (in raised funds) this year.”

This coming Friday night, the fund will welcome a new event. Spearheaded by Fire Chief Tom Colangelo, the first Toy Fund Disco Party will be held at the Elks Lodge on Fashion Outlet Boulevard.

“The chief has really pulled all of that together,” Castellani said. “We think it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Firefighters will also be out at the intersection of Niagara Falls Boulevard and Military Road on Black Friday with their Boot Brigade.

“There is usually a huge amount of traffic there, though with stores (opening early on Thanksgiving night), we’re hoping that doesn’t hurt us,” Castellani said. “We can’t be standing in traffic in the dark.”

The last of the seasonal fundraising will take place on Dec. 14, with the annual Toy Fund Telethon and Basket Raffle. Broadcast on Time Warner Cable, the telethon has become a defining element of the firefighter’s fundraising efforts.

“It’s definitely the most well-known facet of our fund raising,” Castellani said. “Once again we’ll have over 100 gift baskets donated by local businesses and individuals and, of course, since we aren’t professional telethon people, we hope folks will come by (the broadcast site) for the unintentional comedy.”