By: Cully Schneider
Preparation for the annual Toys for Tots drive, headed by real estate agents Stephanie Danyluk and Albert Rodriguez, The AROD Team, have been in full swing since October.
“Our goal is to always start end of October with getting the word out. Our box distribution starts mid November; we are usually picking up the last minute toys as late as December 23,” says Danyluk. “It probably ends up being well over 100 hours [of work] in total from start to finish.”
This year Stephanie and Albert have delivered 50 boxes to various companies and stores throughout Santa Clarita Valley. As a former Marine for 12 years, Albert participated in the Toys for Tots program during that time, so he has early experience with the charity.
Founded in 1947 by a Marine named Major Bill Hendricks, Toys for Tots began in Los Angeles County. The foundation strives to deliver as many new toys at Christmas time to less fortunate kids and inspire them with a message of hope they can carry with them throughout life’s journey.
Today, Karen Davis heads the Santa Clarita/Antelope Valley division. Danyluk and Rodriquez have sponsored the program in Santa Clarita for the last 11 years.
Once again this year, a special drive thru drop off will be available December 10 from 1 – 4 p.m., where visitors can also enjoy having their picture taken with Santa Claus, Star Wars characters and U.S. Marines. Santa Claritans are also encouraged to bring an unwrapped toy to their Newhall office on 24106 Lyons Ave, Sunday thru Saturday, between 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., until December 19.
Stephanie recalls some very special moments from last year’s event. “Last year we had 2 special ones: one, a lady dropped off several toys and told me the story of how as a young girl she and her brother were recipients of the toys from Toys for Tots…she even went as far as to drop off the same type of stuffed animal as she received and told me she has never forgotten and always donates each year.”
“The second was,” continues Stephanie, “a family stopped by as the 80 year old Gentleman who could barely walk and talk saw the Marines standing outside and he told his daughter to stop the car and see what is going on. They did – brought some toys, but the most incredible part is the gentleman who cannot stand, got out of the car, fighting his daughter off as she helped him, and he stood up and saluted the Marines. His daughter had tears of joy as she told us he never wants to stand up and you could see the joy in the whole families’ eyes. Absolutely incredible moment,” she recalls.
Stephanie and her partner Albert look forward to more incredible moments at this year’s drive. They have already exceeded the number of boxes delivered to local businesses last year. “Each year we always try to make it bigger and better than the last event.”
And what is Stephanie’s favorite part about the annual charity event? “I love the whole thing from start to finish,” she explains. “Every day that I work on the event, I seem to make a new connection, strengthen a business relationship, connect with colleagues and friends, and re-connect with the families, friends and clients that were provided our real estate services…Every year we are honored to be a part of a charitable event that has been a part of America’s history since 1947. Our hearts are full, every holiday season, because of the countless touching moments and fun memories that we experience each and every year that we participate.”
Through their sponsoring of Santa Clarita’s Toys for Tots drive, Stephanie Danyluk and Albert Rodriguez exemplify the true beauty of giving from the heart this holiday season.