Accumulating in the living room of Armand Mendez’s West Haven home are new, unopened toys. Gifts soon to be presented to children in the name of fallen New Haven firefighter Ricardo Torres Jr.
“To us, this toy drive in his honor means everything,” said Mendez.
Tragically, Torres lost his life while battling a New Haven fire in May. During his memorial, firefighters from around the region, saluted his heroism.
This holiday season, his family and New Haven’s Hispanic Firefighters Association (NHHFA) is finding a different way to honor his memory.
“Not only are we helping all these families, but we’re also keeping the memory of Ricardo alive,” said NHHFA President Rafael Zayas.
Mendez is Torres’ stepfather. He raised Ricardo since he was 12 years old. He says the reasons Ricardo would support the toy drive are the same ones that drove him to become a first responder.
“Above all, he was about his community and wanting to help people,” said Mendez.
NHHFA has held a toy drive for 20 years. Last year though, the pandemic forced it to be scaled back. Torres couldn’t be involved and was disappointed. His peers say this year’s push for toys is a fitting tribute.
“I believe Ricardo would like to see as many kids as possible get blessed. Especially in his memory,” said Zayas.
As the holiday season approaches, grief is unavoidable for the Torres family. But they say there is some comfort knowing the toy drive could help other families through tough times of their own.
“Being able to help these children out and these families out. It does help a little,” said Mendez.
While Mendes and his wife Cathy are urging people to donate toys, they also want people to remember the character of their beloved son.
“As long as we are able to push Ricky’s memory on for his kids, and for everyone in the community to realize the type of person and hero he was,” said Mendez.
Donations of new, unopened toys can be dropped off or shipped to the following locations:
- The Shubert Theatre - 247 College Street, New Haven
- Casa Otonal - 135 Sylvan Avenue, New Haven
- Any of the ten New Haven firehouses