Difference Makers: Staten Island family still collecting toy donations despite pandemic

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NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — The pandemic is making it difficult for charities to collect toys for needy children this year.

People aren’t supposed to be gathering in the places that normally have large donation boxes, but a Staten Island family is still trying to collect.

The Bonici’s family basement is filled with boxes that are normally used to collect toys to give to sick and needy children on Christmas.

The boxes are supposed to be in churches, where parishioners can donate, or in schools for parents and kids to give.

“Unfortunately, as you can see the boxes are here. They aren’t out because there's not a whole lot of places collecting toys,” says Steve Bonici.

But his family still is going out to collect where they can.

He and his wife, Lisa, helped start the Richard Gardner Jr. Memorial Toy Drive after her brother, a New York City police officer, was killed in a car accident.

“We've been to many places where our toys are probably the only toys the children do get,” says Lisa Bonici.

She says without the toy drive, they might not get anything.

“I won’t let them go without a toy. I can't even think about it. I can’t think of it,” she adds.

Her brother often worked with kids and loved them.

But, this year is even more poignant because her mother, Angela Gardner, who ran the drive for nearly 26 years, died early in 2020.

They are hoping to keep the collection going in her memory as well.

"We usually get a lot of monetary donations, which due to COVID, we have not received. We usually receive donations from various restaurants and various businesses. We have not received that either. So, we're trying to make do with what we have," says Steve and Lisa's daughter, Danielle.

Steve Bonici says he is also disappointed he won’t be able to play Santa Claus and hand out toys like he has for years.

He gets emotional just talking about.

“It breaks my heart,” he says.

They are still looking for help and are asking people to donate on their website.