The Firefighters 4 Kids program started in 1977 as a very small program in the basement of its founder and Columbus Firefighter Mike Mullins. It started on runs with the fire department, Mike was taken back at how many children were not going to have a Christams. From there it blossomed into making sure children had a gift to open at Christmas time. The Columbus Division of Fire employees donated gifts throughout the year, and the firefighters then would deliver the gifts to the houses of families that they knew needed assistance. The program has grown over the years and they can no longer hand deliver the toys, but that did not deter them from continuing the program. They looked for bigger and better ways to manage the needs and continue to provide the toys every year.
In 2009, the program serviced 6,664 families and a total of 17,342 children. They do all of this from donations from the community, sponsors as well as fund raisers conducted by such groups as: the Young Professionals, ABATE, the Harmony project to name a few. Their partnership with NBC4 has also allowed for the creation of a yearly Toy Drive at the NBC studios in Columbus. The hosts of the News programs as well firefighters, and lots of dedicated volunteers stand outside in the cold weather to take donations of toys and money from individuals in a drive through manner. It’s an amazing thing to see.
The sheer joy of knowing that children will be able to wake up on Christmas morning and have a gift under the tree is so fulfilling. They provide toys for children ages 0-12 and if they have items available, provide gifts for children ages 13-14. The younger age groups and older age groups are the hardest to get donations for each year.
In addition to the toy program, each year through the assistance of the Mid-Ohio Food Bank, they have been able to also distribute food to areas in need. In 2009 they were able to ship out three semi's full of food to the struggling community of Wilmington, OH.
It’s an amazing operation and they have brought joy to so many children throughout the years that they have serviced their community. Like other non-profit groups, they are facing more and more challenges with receiving donations and increasing demand due to changes in economic conditions. But each year they continue to do all that they can do. Their motto is, “We’ll keep giving out toys until we run out of children or toys”. So far, they haven’t run out of either, but it is getting closer each time.