City Lights: Girls and boys always love their toys

"It came without ribbons! It came without tags! It came without packages, boxes or bags!"

So exclaims Dr. Seuss' Grinch when he discovers that his attempt to stifle Christmas, by stealing all the presents from under the trees of Whoville, has come up short. The message of the Seuss classic is that the meaning of the holidays can't be found inside any package, but in the spirit of joy and togetherness.

The trouble is, that may be a message more easily embraced by adults than by kids. For the last decade, my family has more or less retired gift-giving and restricted holiday celebrations to a communal meal. That's more than good enough for me. I seldom have many material needs that aren't covered at the end of the year.

Maybe that's why, judging from news reports, about one third of the planet's grown-ups sobbed at the end of "Toy Story 3"; as we grow older, it's easy to forget how those plastic figures once meant the world to us.

Still, for anyone 12 and under, there are few things in life more thrilling than waking up Christmas morning and tackling that pile of presents under the tree. And for those who aren't well enough to have that privilege, December can be a particularly bleak month.

So, as Christmas approaches, this week's column will take the form of a listing of places around town accepting toys for charity. I'm sure it's far from a comprehensive list, but here are a few for starters:

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Joni's Angels, a nonprofit staffed by volunteers from local high schools, leads a toy drive every year at Fountain Valley Regional Hospital & Medical Center for kids hospitalized over the holidays. The students visit the patients to read to them, play music and otherwise give a respite to their parents or other caregivers.

The nonprofit seeks donated toys (or money to purchase toys) in hopes of providing a sack to every child in the pediatric unit, pediatric ICU and neonatal ICU. The nonprofit assembled 50 sacks of toys last year. The deadline for donations is Dec. 24. For more information, call (949) 263-5910 or visit http://www.jonisangels.org.

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The Huntington Beach Fire Department is hosting a "Spark of Love" toy drive through Dec. 24. Donors are encouraged to bring a new, unwrapped toy or item of sports equipment to the fire stations at 18311 Gothard St., 16221 Gothard St., 19711 Bushard St., 21441 Magnolia St., 530 Lake St., 18591 Edwards St., 3831 Warner Ave. and 5891 Heil Ave.; police headquarters, 2000 Main St. or the neighboring Civic Center's main lobby. (The Civic Center will be closed Dec. 24, but the other locations will remain open.) For information, call (714) 536-5418.

The Fountain Valley Fire Department is also hosting a "Spark of Love" drive through Dec. 22, with toys and sporting equipment accepted at the fire stations at 17737 Bushard St. and 16767 Newhope St.; City Hall at 10200 Slater Ave.; the Center at Founders Village at 17967 Bushard St.; and the CVS Pharmacy at 17136 Magnolia St. For more information, call (714) 593-4436, ext. 368.

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The Fountain Valley-Kingston Branch of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Huntington Valley is collecting toys for the Su Casa shelter for domestic violence victims in Long Beach. Bring a new toy, either wrapped or unwrapped, to the front office at 16582 Brookhurst St. in Fountain Valley through Dec. 23. The office is open 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. For information, call (714) 531-2582.

City Editor MICHAEL MILLER can be reached at (714) 966-4617 or at michael.miller@latimes.com.

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