SunBird Niners News

Vivian Adams, W. Steven Martin, and Chief at 20th Niners annual 911 Toy Drive (photo by Gail Schroeder)

Gail Schroeder

The Niners’ favorite event in December is a visit from W. Steven Martin (W), originator of 911 Toy Drive, and his dog Chief. Vivian Adams, president of the SunBird Niners, organized the event. The rest of the Niners ensured a successful drive by bringing new toys for W’s charity. In November, you probably saw news reports about the large, 12-unit apartment complex fire. The charity was able to set up delivery of toys with the police and fire department to all 22 children affected, as well as a few of their friends who were hanging around to provide emotional support. W also mentioned that the Native American girls whose house burned down last Christmas season had expressed their gratitude.

I think the most compelling story about W’s 911 Toy Drive charity is how it all began. I am going to quote directly from their website, and you can read more about it on their website

“In December of 1988, W received a call from a young woman, Toni, asking for toys. Toni Hawk’s husband, Tempe Police Officer Robert Hawk, had committed to adopting three families for Christmas. But on Sept. 24 of that year, Officer Hawk was killed in the line of duty by a hit-and-run driver. Toni was determined to fulfill Robert’s promise to those families, despite dealing with her own grief and now raising two small children on her own.

When W heard her story, he told Toni to meet him that evening at his home where he had a good supply of toys stored in the garage. When she arrived, Officer Hawk’s entire squad, in uniform, accompanied her. As they walked around the garage, selecting the perfect toys for the children, W and his wife Susie had their ‘aha’ moment. Why not invite police officers to adopt families they have encountered through their duties? The officers would know the needs, they would be able to deliver the toys to the kids in their beats, and the children and their families would potentially develop a greater appreciation for the police and all they do to help those in our community.

“Beginning in early 1989, W worked tirelessly to get sponsors on board, find a warehouse, and begin to collect toys. He reached out to community leaders, local public officials, and Police Chiefs and Sheriffs. A plan was in place.”

Since then, the program has expanded to include fire departments and the military. They accept donations year-round, directing gifts from their warehouses to those in need. The W. Steven Martin Police Toy Drive Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with no payroll expenses.

The next thing the Niners are looking forward to is the Home and Home golf tournament organized by Bev Launer and hosted by Sun Lakes Niners. The event will be on Feb. 28 with a continental breakfast at 8:30 a.m., golf at 9 a.m., and lunch following.