Cody Chandler and the Brigham Young University-Idaho choir hope to make Christmas a little brighter in Northern California.
Chandler organized the “Santa in Santa Rosa” toy drive to benefit victims of the wildfires that raged across the state in October.
Up to 17 fires, including the largest in California’s history, killed dozens of people, burned at least 245,000 acres and destroyed nearly 9,000 buildings.
Chandler said the toy drive complements this year’s BYU-Idaho Christmas choir performance theme, which promotes giving service to others. His goal is to collect toys for 2,300 affected children. He wants to collect three toys for each child — 6,900 in total.
“We wanted to reach out to those with a very specific need,” Chandler said. “I think it’ll mean a lot to these children. Someone is looking out for them, even if that someone is in Rexburg, Idaho Falls, Soda Springs or wherever.”
The choir is collecting new toys for newborn children and those up to 18 years old; technology also is welcome.
Donation boxes will be available until Dec. 15 at Broulim’s grocery stores in Ammon, Driggs, Montpelier, Shelley, Soda Springs, St. Anthony, Rexburg and Rigby, as well as the Albertsons in Rexburg.
Toys will be delivered Dec. 18 to the Santa Rosa, Calif., chapter of the Marine Corps League, which conducts the region’s Toys for Tots activities.
Chandler himself experienced the effects of a natural disaster when he was among the 5,000 people evacuated from his home during the 2012 Charlotte wildfire in Pocatello.
Chandler remembered the goodwill personally offered to him in the fire’s aftermath by a Scout leader, and hopes the toy drive can offer similar comfort to children in California.
“When the Scout leader said ‘I’m here for you,’ it was very touching,” Chandler said. “And the devastation of these California fires is much worse. So we’re doing anything we can to make Christmas a little more special for these kids.”
Reporter Kevin Trevellyan can be reached at 208-542-6762.