SunBird Golfing Niners

Navy veteran Howard with therapy dog Chief (photo by Vivian Adams)

Gail Schroeder

Judy Johnston, president of the SunBird Ladies Niners Golf Club, and the Niners met with W. Steven Martin (W), founder of the 911 Toy Drive, and his therapy dog Chief for our 21st Annual 911 Toy Drive. We have been donating toys to W’s 501(c)(3) nonprofit foundation since 2002, but W has been gathering toys since 1984. Thanks to the generosity of our members, many children were blessed with a Merry Christmas. Some of the toys from the Foundation’s warehouses are also given to fire departments, police and sheriff’s departments, and the military throughout the year to be used in times of need. Last year some of the gifts we donated were given to two Native American girls who live in the bottom of the Grand Canyon. They have never been out of the Canyon, so no shopping! Oh no! I’m sure they were overjoyed with the gifts given to them at Christmastime.

As an additional outreach of the charity, Steven and his wife Susie, along with Chief, visited a 92-year-old Navy veteran named Howard in assisted living in San Diego. Howard and his daughter related that he had had a dog very similar to Chief decades earlier. One day when they were playing, Howard threw a ball, which rolled into the street, and, of course, the dog chased it and was struck and killed by a passing car. As Howard’s health deteriorated, he had been requesting to see his dog. Chief seemed to be an answer to that prayer, and Howard was filled with joy!

Later, as part of the Martins’ association with the Alliance of Therapy Dogs, they responded to a call to visit the USS Stockdale at Naval Station San Diego. The ship, anticipating a deployment, wanted the sailors and staff to have an opportunity to meet with therapy teams, pet these four-legged furry therapists, and enjoy a moment of unconditional love.

As a side note, the USS Stockdale, a guided-missile destroyer, was named for James Bond Stockdale (his men nicknamed him “007”). He was not only a veteran of World War II, but was also a POW in Vietnam, right down the hall from John McCain. Vice Admiral Stockdale was so well respected by all that the Navy named the ship after him. What a blessing W has been through this charity.

In a follow-up call to Steven, he mentioned that there are some changes proposed for next year’s 911 Toy Drive. In order to save time, money, and energy, they are going to request only monetary donations or gift cards. This will alleviate the need for the warehouses and will save the charity thousands of dollars per year in storage fees. Details of the specifics are forthcoming, so watch this newsletter for updates.

Many thanks to all the Niners who helped those girls and others have a very Merry Christmas, and we hope your holidays were blessed also.