First Responders Children's Foundation Launches Toy Express, Plans To Deliver Over 250,000 Free Toys Across Country

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — There was a sense of normalcy in Hamilton Heights for hundreds of children of first responders Saturday.

A new kind of giveaway brought them holiday cheer at a time it’s needed most.

In a year filled with little joy, there were big smiles peeking from behind the windows of cars lining Riverbank State Park.

FDNY firefighter and mom of five Kinga Mielnik says the drive-thru toy giveaway gave her and her boys much more than just basketballs and action figures.

“I’m here to celebrate, I’m here to have a good time and to finally have some normalcy,” Mielnik told CBS2’s Christina Fan.

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The First Responders Children’s Foundation, started in the wake of 9/11, launched its first ever Toy Express this year. (Credit: CBS2)

The First Responders Children’s Foundation, started in the wake of 9/11, launched its first ever Toy Express this year. Organizers say they wanted to support essential workers, many of whom developed COVID while on the front lines.

Mielnik and her family suffered a scare after she was admitted to Bellevue at the beginning of the pandemic for 11 days.

“I’m just grateful. Every day is a blessing. Every day is a good day,” Mielnik said.

The Toy Express will be delivering over 250,000 free toys across the country. Organizer say locally, they will be serving over 600 first responder families.

“The thing is we are all anxious, but children of first responders are especially anxious because their parents are going away. They don’t know if they’re going to come home sick, they don’t know if they’re going to get sick,” said Jillian Crane, president of the First Responders Children’s Foundation.

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For the the Aquino family, the grandkids not only walked away with presents, they also spent precious time with their grandmother, a New York state park police officer. (Credit: CBS2)

For the the Aquino family, the grandkids not only walked away with presents, they also spent precious time with their grandmother, a New York state park police officer.

“She’s been an essential worker the entire time, so we’ve both been worried about her, being out here,” said Alexis Aquino, of Brownsville.

For the short time families spent in the drive-thru, entertained by music, toy soldiers and Santa, holiday magic took hold.

Organizers say toys will also be distributed by first responder agencies to the communities they serve.

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