Spark of Love toys help make the Holidays easier for Airman's families

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Oz Suguitan
  • 452 AMW

Spark of Love toys help make the Holidays easier for Airman's families
By Tech. Sgt. Oz Suguitan 452nd Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

MARCH AIR RESERVE BASE, CALIF. (December 11, 2022) --- Cal Fire Temecula Fire Department and the 452nd Logistics Readiness Squadron (LRS) held a Spark of Love toy distribution for children of Airmen at the March Air Reserve Base Joint Deployment Center on Dec. 11, 2022. 

Spark of Love is an annual program sponsored by ABC7, Toys for Tots, and Southern California firefighters to collect and distribute toys to underserved and deserving children and teens in Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Orange, Ventura, and Riverside counties. The initiative is in its 30th year of serving the community. This year, their distribution at the Deployment Center was open to Airmen and other base personnel to collect free gifts for their children aged newborn to 12 years old.

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Juan C. Calderon of the 452 LRS was the lead coordinator for this year's toy distribution event.

Calderon said every year, fire stations throughout California gather donations at various collection events which are then redistributed to families.

"This year, they wanted to show appreciation and gratitude to our service members," said Calderon. "The sacrifices that members and their families make are challenging and are not forgotten by the City of Temecula."

Calderon's civilian role is with the fire department in Temecula. He said he was pleased to be able to leverage his roles as an Airman and a firefighter to help make the event a success.

Organizations, businesses, and individuals throughout the Southland donated toys to the program. Last year, Cal Fire Riverside County, Temecula was able to provide toys to 500 local families.

Wendy Miller, management analyst with the City of Temecula Fire Department has managed the Spark of Love program for the department for the past 5 years. She said last year the department was able to locally collect over 4,000 toys for families.

Airmen and base personnel who came to the Deployment Center to pick out gifts expressed their gratitude to get presents for their families. 

2nd Lt. Bret Schutz, with the 752nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, participated in the program with his daughter and son this year and mentioned he was excited to be there with his kids to pick out a few toys. 

U.S. Air Force Col. Erik L. Aufderheide, commander of 452 Air Mobility Wing, was on hand to take a picture with Santa and observe the event. He expressed his thanks to fire department personnel for their work and care for Team March families this season.

Families in attendance were also able to participate in a meet-and-greet with City of Temecula firefighters, view and touch firefighting equipment, and take a holiday picture with Santa.

"It's extremely rewarding," said Calderon of the toy drive, "to see the genuine smiling faces of children here, it's 100% joy."