CANARYVILLE — Chicago Firefighters Union Local 2 and Catholic Charities have already collected thousands of toys for needy Chicago area kids. But the payoff comes at the end Saturday's 14th annual Toy Parade, which starts at 10 a.m.
The parade kicks off at the union's headquarters, 440 W. 43rd St., and ends at 600 W. Washington Blvd., where Catholic Charities will collect the toys and deliver them to kids in need. The union and Catholic Charities have already collected 5,000 gifts for thousands of disadvantaged children across Cook and Lake counties.
But Thomas Ryan, the president of the union, said they are not done yet. Ryan said people who want to help can still write a check to Catholic Charities or donate toys directly to the Local 2 office.
People can also give toys directly to firefighters during the parade, something Ryan said happened organically the first couple years.
"You know one neighbor came out with toys, and people saw that and thought it was great," Ryan said. "It's been growing every year, and it's pretty cool. It's a way to get the neighborhoods involved."
On Thursday, the warehouse at Local 2's office looked like a Toys ''R'' Us store. Jack Salzman, who has been with the fire department for 15 years, was tuning one of the many bikes that lined the warehouse floor.
Salzman said the parade is important to him.
"I work in an area of the city where people don't have as much as I do," Salzman said. "You see those people in need, and it makes you feel good to help them out because you'd hate to see kid have a Christmas go by without getting a present."