Do you remember when you were a kid, longing for that special gift you so badly wanted for the holidays? Maybe it was a Barbie doll, a chemistry set or something like the BB gun that Ralphie Parker had his heart set on in the classic movie, “A Christmas Story.”
In early December 2022, EMS professionals at Greenwood Village and AMR Arvada helped make that kind of wish come true for more than 3,400 underserved kids, who received a free toy as part of Kenzi’s Causes Toy Shop at the National Western Complex in Denver.
The toy drive and distribution efforts, hosted by the non-profit, “Kenzi’s Causes,” are taking place in several cities throughout Colorado leading up to the Christmas weekend. GMR, which has been a corporate sponsor of the event since 2021, has had team members donating toys for the drive for the past 10 years.
“We hope to be able to support Kenzi’s for many more years to come,” says Erik Reynolds, senior vice president, GMR Corporate Development. “There are few acts quite as satisfying as helping a child choose a gift for a sibling or helping a parent find just the right toy to put under the tree.”
Reynolds, who sits on the non-profit’s board, says GMR’s participation in this year’s drive was part of a team collaboration. The toy collection and volunteer sign-ups among team members were facilitated by the Greenwood Village Office in partnership with the Arvada Operations. In all, GMR team members donated more than 100 toys for the drive between November 1 through the 30.
“The AMR Denver operations has loved participating in this event over the years. The crews usually see our communities’ kiddos on some of their toughest days in the ambulance, and they love to get out into the community on a positive note for this event during the holiday season,” says Liz Steadman, operations manager, AMR Denver and Arvada.
For Reynolds, it’s that special encounter during the distribution that makes the activity particularly stand out, creating an impression that stays long beyond the holiday season.
“Toward the end of the day, most of the nicer toys had found homes and the selection was slim. A family came in with a young boy who simply lit up when he saw a small, simple firetruck, he recalls. “It wasn’t a large toy and didn’t have working lights or sirens, but it was exactly what the boy wanted. He smiled from ear to ear and hugged his new toy like it was the most special thing he’d ever received.”
Reynolds says the event always amazes him on how a simple act of kindness goes a long way, giving joy to caregivers, parents and children who otherwise, would not have been so fortunate.
“Helping kids have a gift to open during the holidays does not save a life like so many of our colleagues and teammates do every day. However, it helps to preserve the magic of the season, if only for a little bit. It brings joy and brightens the spirits of toy recipients. And it preserves some dignity and evades some harsh realities for the parent or caregiver, even if only for a little bit.”