Irwindale, Calif. - - When Irwindale Speedway teamed up with ABC7 and the Southern California Firefighters to declare the seventh month of the year 2000 the first "Christmas in July" at the Speedway some were a bit skeptical about the promotion.
Irwindale, Calif. - - When Irwindale Speedway teamed up with ABC7 and the Southern California Firefighters to declare the seventh month of the year 2000 the first "Christmas in July" at the Speedway some were a bit skeptical about the promotion. After all, the month of July and the Christmas spirit are not exactly always present in the same thought. "We really didn't know what to expect hosting a "Spark of Love" toy drive in the middle of Summer," said Irwindale VP Bob DeFazio. "But we wanted to give it a try and we were more than pleased with the outcome."
"Our firefighters and volunteers were on had at the Speedway accept new, unwrapped toys or sporting goods from the fans coming to the races," said Captain Steve Valenzuela of the Los Angeles County Fire Department, the man who first ignited the five county-wide "Spark of Love" program eight years ago. "The track returned the favor to the fans with a $5.00 gift certificate (redeemable at the track's ticket window, gift shop, or concession stands) and a free copy of that night's event program (a regular $4.00 value) for each donation."
Track officials had previously indicated on the PA and in the fan newsletter that they'd like to see fans bring "racing-related" toys, and the fans responded with hundreds of model cars, kits, games, and other motorsports toy items. "Many of our fans came back twice and three times with additional toys for the drive," DeFazio said with a smile, "We were knocked out with both the quality and the quantity for this first-time program."
Some 2,000 toys were collected over the track's five Saturday night racing events during the month of July. "That's 2,000 kids who will have a little happier holiday this year," said Valenzuela. The L.A. County Department of Children and Family Services and other non-profit agencies will distribute these toys to less fortunate kids during the upcoming holiday season.
The toys, which have been kept at Irwindale Speedway, will be transferred to a special storage facility until it is time for their distribution in December. Jan Qualkenbush, the owner of Jan's Towing offered the free use of a section of his secure storage facility located right in Irwindale for that purpose. Earlier in the toy drive, Qualkenbush made a $1000.00 donation to the fund to purchase additional toys for kids who might otherwise face Christmas without one.
"We hope that our "Christmas in July" / "Spark of Love Toy Drive" will become a great annual tradition at Irwindale," said DeFazio, "We truly enjoyed this wonderful opportunity to bring some fun into some kids' lives …Thanks so much to all of our great fans, they really showed a lot of class!"
For fans still desiring to make donations to the "Spark of Love" toy drive, all Los Angeles County Fire Stations will accept new, unwrapped toys or sporting goods items during the months of November and December.