ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Recovering Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin helps to sponsor a toy drive in his home state of Pennsylvania via the ‘Chasing M Foundation’. Since suffering a cardiac arrest on the field, that toy fund has hit over $6.6 million in donations (and counting). The money goes to help support toy drives, back-to-school drives, kid camps, and more. 

“It just goes to show you with this community: here, Buffalo, anywhere. When the chips are down, people are there to help out,” said Otto Harnischfeger with the Rochester area’s Pirate Toy Fund

Harnischfeger says whether it’s their drive or Damar Hamlin’s, it all comes down to one idea: 

“And our whole goal is to help kids that are in need. Mainly the hospitals, sick children, we do the surgery centers, we do ‘toys on patrol,'” he said.

In other words, toy drives aren’t just for Christmas. They’re a year-round affair. In their first year, 1995, Harnischfeger said the Pirate Toy Fund passed out about 300 toys. 

“(Then) last year, we gave out 32,000 toys free of charge due to our program, you know, people in the community donating to us.”

They’ve come a long way. Harnischfeger says there are 98 program partners they give toys out to year-round. A big donation drop-off is at places like children’s hospitals. 

“And the power of a toy is unsurpassed. You take their pain away for one minute by giving them a toy, it really does,” he said.

Harnischfeger says a toy can let the child’s imagination run free —a distraction from the circumstances they might be in. 

“It’s about the kids. It’s all about the kids and the situations they did not choose to be in.”

If you want to donate, Harnischfeger says they are short on infant toys and toys for teens. To donate, click here.

 

ABOUT THE PIRATE TOY FUND:

“The Pirate Toy Fund is the only nonprofit organization in the country dedicated to distributing new toys year-round to children in need throughout the Greater Rochester region. Co-Founded by local children’s entertainer, Gary the Happy Pirate and Dave and Lorrie Simonetti, the Pirate Toy Fund has distributed almost 400,000 toys since 1995 and continues to actively pursue new avenues to expand its mission. The founders were inspired by the extraordinary life of Christie Simonetti; special friend to Gary and daughter of Dave and Lorrie. The Pirate Toy Fund is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization (Tax ID/EIN 16-1548695).”