Thea Digiammerino

Volunteers Throw Holiday Party for Foster Families in New Haven

New Haven first responders and Toys for Tots threw a special holiday party for dozens of foster families in New Haven Monday.

Seven-year-old Zaniya Agnew knew exactly what she wanted for Christmas: a sparkling makeup set, and she made sure her little sister got a present too (a small gumball machine).

"I'm getting toys and having fun listening to Christmas music," Agnew said.

Inside the New Haven Regional Fire Training Academy, dozens of kids got to grab some food and pick out a toy. All the children who attended Monday night's party are part of the Guardian Kinship Program of the New Haven Probate Court, which helps foster families and family members stepping in to raise children.

"These are grandparents oftentimes taking on family responsibility who need help themselves," said New Haven Probate Court Judge Clifton E. Graves, Jr.

"For this event all the fire departments and police departments and AMR in New Haven will collect toys at the beginning of the tree lighting, at the beginning of December, through this event," said Sgt. Michael Rickaby.

Sgt. Rickaby joined the U.S. Marine Corps ten years ago and began taking part in Toys for Tots eight years ago. When he joined the New Haven Fire Department four years ago, he wanted to help create an event that focused on families like Bernice Hobby's.

"It helps us a lot during the holidays because we're on a fixed income," said Hobby.

Grandma Bernice raised four grandchildren, including 12-year-old Hezekiah.

"I'd rather take my grandchildren instead of letting them go in the system," said Hobby.

Hezekiah was at Monday night's party and was surprised to see Santa come in on a fire truck.

"It's just shocking because he usually comes in a sleigh," said Hezekiah.

The New Haven Fire Department, New Haven Police Department, U.S. Marine Corps, and AMR all helped put the event together. And generous donations from the community helped fill up boxes of toys. Seeing children receive the toys they want makes it all worthwhile for volunteers.

"For those that might need a little boost or a little bit extra, I want to provide that for them," said New Haven Firefighter Daniel Del Prete, who helped spearhead the event.

The event is in its third year and they're hoping it only continues to grow and make the holidays brighter for even more children.

For those interested in learning more about the Guardian Kinship Program, you can head to or call 203-946-4880.

For those interested in donating toys to the All Hands Toy Drive, from the New Haven tree lighting until the party, people can donate toys to the police department or any of the fire stations in New Haven.

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