It can be a very sad time for parents with children who are sick or have special needs. With medical bills and other expenses, often times there isn't enough money to give their child a real Christmas.
Thankfully, as it has for years, the Cape Coral Fire Department is coming to the rescue.
The CCFD has kicked off its annual C.A.P.E. (Citizens and Public Employees) Special Needs Toy Drive this week to help children with special needs in the community enjoy Christmas.
The CCFD, in collaboration with the public and private sector, has provided gifts during the holiday season for more than 20 years to children with special needs such as Down syndrome, cancer, autism, cystic fibrosis, and other illnesses.
"For many years, we've gathered toys to distribute the special needs children for the holidays, otherwise they don't have a very big Christmas," said Michael Heeder, CCFD spokesperson. "Usually there are so many medical expenses associated with their care, the families simply cannot provide."
Heeder said the goal is to get the perfect gift for each child so they get that something special from the holidays. Otherwise, the family may not be able to afford it.
"We are still collecting the name and ages of the children. We're looking at 20 to 25 children. That number may grow," Heeder said. "Historically, the numbers have varied between 20 and 80 children."
Heeder said the goal was to collect enough toys so every child will get at least two gifts they were looking forward to receiving. Any extra toys will go to other agencies providing toys for disadvantages children.
Donation boxes have been placed at 9 of the city's 10 CCFD stations, (station 2 is closed for repiars) where people can drop off a new unwrapped toy or gift from now until Dec. 14. No cash donations are permitted.
Heeder said the boxes are already filling up.
Donors are encouraged to drop by during regular business hours of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
If there is no answer at the door, crews may be responding to an emergency call, participating in an event, or training offsite, Heeder said.
Residents may try waiting a few minutes or stopping by at a later time. It is not advised that anyone leave the toys by the door or in an unsecured area.
Heeder said the toys are delivered to a central location, where they will be wrapped by volunteers and prepared for distribution.
"We're not looking for those in a particular socio-economic bracket. Our hope is these kids, through no fault of their own, have families who are strapped by medical expenses," Heeder said. "We're trying to alleviate some of the burden."
A list of suggested toys or gift items can be found on the city's website at www.capecoral.net