While most of the city slept early Friday morning, taking advantage
of a day off of work or school on Christmas Eve, Kelly Chulick
surveyed the five large boxes filled with toys in the lobby of Fire
Station 11. Then he started stuffing the toys into the back of his
One day before Christmas and fresh off of an overnight shift, the
Burbank firefighter played Santa Claus.
"They call me Santa Claus on Wheels," said Chulick, who has
organized the Burbank Fire Dept.'s Spark of Love Toy Drive for the
past six years. "This is one of those days I do feel like Santa
Claus. I know that these toys are going to be going to someone on
Throughout December, the Burbank Fire Dept. has large toy donation
boxes at each of its six stations, so residents can drop off toys.
Every few weeks, Chulick goes around and collects the toys. He
estimates that he's collected $25,000 to $35,000 worth of toys this
With the pace of donations increasing as Christmas approaches,
Chulick has had to make two collection runs in the last three days.
On Wednesday, Chulick brought toys to Burbank Family Aid. Friday,
he delivered toys to the Burbank Temporary Aid Center, which turned
the old Lockheed building into Santa's Workshop. Families who qualify
for the toys can walk through the workshop and choose which ones they
want as late as Friday morning.
"A lot of people come in at the last moment, freaked out that they
haven't gotten it together," said Edward Stapleton, the Temporary Aid
Center's pantry manager. "If we have toys left over, we save it for
The families must live in Burbank and not be able to afford toys
on their own. Stapleton said the Temporary Aid Center gave toys to
about 300 families, including about 1,000 children.
For Chulick, the Spark of Love has become an annual ritual. His
two children are in their 20s and have long outgrown toys. But he
always tries to deflect attention from himself.
"It's a good community," Chulick said. "Burbank is very, very
Fire departments from five Southern California counties hold a toy
drive for the Spark of Love. Each department donates all of the toys
collected to its own community.