Lefty O’Doul’s seeks 30,000 toys in Christmas Eve toy drive

The Christmas spirit is spreading through San Francisco on Friday, and the heart of the activity may be Lefty O’Doul’s restaurant near Union Square, where a last-minute holiday toy drive is kicking into high gear.

Lefty’s needs 30,000 toys by the time the toy drive ends at 1 a.m. on Christmas Day, restaurant owner Nick Bovis said Friday morning.

Bovis said the San Francisco Firefighters Toy Program, which relies on Lefty’s each year to make up any gap in toy donations with its Christmas Eve Drive, has informed him that as many as 15,000 San Francisco kids could go without toys this year.

To Bovis, that means 30,000 toys are needed so each child receives two.

“Because Santa doesn’t normally just drop off one,” he said.

The goal is lofty; last year, only 9,000 toys were collected in the last-minute drive. But Bovis is optimistic.

“It looks like the Christmas spirit is really strong this year,” he said.

A group of young singers from the Mission helped kick off the drive with Christmas carols beginning at 4:30 a.m.

The “Stars of the Future Giving Back Singers,” who wore Santa hats and San Francisco Giants jerseys donated by the team, wanted to spread cheer because so many people had helped them with supplies for their music program, Bovis said.

“They were great,” Bovis said. “We gave them some money to go ice skating now.”

The other headliner at Lefty’s is Santa John Toomey, who used to work at the nearby Macy’s department store but said he was fired for telling jokes that some considered inappropriate.

“Santa John” has been welcomed with open arms at Lefty’s, which has been charging $10 for photos with him and has raised $7,500, which will be given to the firefighters’ toy program.

Those wishing to drop off a toy don’t even need to get out of their cars; curbside “elves” are waiting to accept donations outside the restaurant at 333 Geary St., at Powell Street.  

For those who are unable to make it to Union Square, Luxor Cab is offering free toy donation pickups all day Friday within San Francisco. For a pickup, call (415) 282-4141.

Toys are being sought for all ages, although in past years there has been a shortage of toys geared toward adolescent girls, he said.

“I think one of the big things that always gets left out is the ‘tween girls,” Bovis said.

Otherwise, he said, any toys are fine, especially things like soccer balls and other sports equipment that encourages kids to be active.

Donated toys should be new and unwrapped.

Firefighters will pick up the donations from Lefty’s in fire trucks Friday evening and distribute them on Christmas Day.

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