By Arianne Bettazzi
My parents, Dan & Pauline Condrick, have been involved in the Child Abuse Prevention Foundation (now called Promises to Kids) benefitting foster children since before I was born. Both of my parents have served on the board and all three of us have been involved in numerous fundraisers throughout the years. We have done a toy drive at Carmel Mountain Preschool every Christmas since we opened in 1983. As a child, I remember fondly of going shopping with my parents to choose gifts for toy drives. It was a very special time because my parents took the time to explain to me that some children weren’t as lucky as me and spent time at the toy store discussing and looking at all the possible gifts we could buy and who would like them. It taught me a lot about giving at a young age and how good it feels to give to others. As I got older my parents let me help with the sorting and wrapping of presents and explained more about the children we were serving. Teaching our children to care for others and to give to others is an important part of raising a child who will be an asset to society. It’s never too young to start instilling these important values. I challenge the children and families of Carmel Mountain Preschool to take the time with their child to choose a toy, game, or other awesome gifts for children ages 0-18 to benefit our toy drive. Let’s make sure we can donate 500 gifts which would be 1/25th of the gifts needed for San Diego County.
In preparation for the toy drive, I had the privilege of interviewing Tonya Torosian, the president of Promises to Kids. I’ve known Tonya since 2005 and the children of San Diego County are lucky to have her.
Where did you grow up? Do you have siblings?
I grew up in Madison, Wisconsin and loved the small town feel of the Midwest. I have an older brother, Craig, and we are only two years apart. Craig lives in Scottsdale now with his family but we remain close and visit often.
Is there anything in your childhood that really formed what your passion is today?
My family! We were always taught to volunteer and to give back to others. I saw both of my parents volunteer at their church and at the homeless shelter. As I started volunteering, I found myself choosing to spend my time with youth charities. I think that is how I became so passionate about social work.
Why is the toy drive so important to you?
The holidays can be a lonely time for children in foster care and just knowing that their day can be a little brighter by receiving a gift, makes me feel that I am sharing the joy of the holidays with them. Many foster parents have several children they are raising and the holiday season can be very expensive. I know that my gift to the gift drive helps them grant their children’s holiday wishes.
What is the toy drive and who does it benefit?
The gift drive is an opportunity for San Diego families to donate a gift to a foster child- letting them know they are not alone. Promises2Kids partners with Carmel Mountain Preschool to collect gifts from Thanksgiving until December 18th. On December 19th and 20th, Promises2Kids ensures the gifts go to foster children in San Diego County. We provide gifts to over ten other foster care agencies to provide every child with a gift from the drive.
Why do you think it is important for children to learn to give to others at such a young age?
Starting to understand the community is bigger than just your family or close friends is important. Children learn about others, and that there are people that may not be as fortunate as they are. They can see that they can become part of a community-wide effort to help others. It is a powerful thing and a lesson that when learned young, stays with people throughout their lives. There is nothing better than seeing a child give a gift to another child in need. Everyone benefits- the child making the gift understands that they can help someone else and make an impact on their lives and the child receiving the gift, knows that someone they may never meet was thinking about them and cares enough to send them something.
Did you have anyone event that really encouraged you to work with children?
Not a single event, but an overall experience volunteering at a local community center in Madison. It was a center that serves low-income children, providing after-school programs, counseling, tutoring and many other programs. Most of the children had difficult family lives and the time I spent with them inspired me to work with children who just wanted someone to show them that they are important.
What is the coolest experience you have had through doing the toy drive?
The coolest thing was when I received a call from a parent whose child wanted to come and donate gifts to us. When we met, she told me that for her birthday party, she asked her friends to give gifts to foster children instead of to her. She was about 10 and I just was so touched that a child was so thoughtful and selfless at such a young age.
What is your end goal/intent for the toy drive?
My hope is that we are able to collect 12,500 gifts for San Diego children and teens this year.
What inspires you?
The generosity of others! In time, talent and treasure- people are so giving and it is a beautiful thing to be a part of.
To learn more about the Holiday Gift Drive please visit the Promises 2 Kids Website here!