Strippers donate $20,000 to San Francisco firefighters' toy drive

Gary Reyes/Bay Area News Group/AP PhotoIn this Oct. 28

Gary Reyes/Bay Area News Group/AP PhotoIn this Oct. 28

A group of dancers from a number of San Francisco strip clubs presented a check for $20,000 to a local firefighters' union Wednesday evening for its annual toy drive.

The dancers are from a coalition of 11 strip clubs, including Larry Flynt's Hustler Club, the Condor Club and Little Darlings, that raises money annually for the San Francisco Firefighters Toy Program. Strippers donate 15 minutes of dancing each night on a voluntary basis to collect money for toys.

This year's donation made headlines Wednesday after the check presentation, which was scheduled to take place at Fire Station 1 on Howard Street, had to be moved because Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White objected to holding the event at the station.

Instead, the strippers presented the check at a warehouse on Jerrold Avenue owned by the Academy of Art University where the donated toys being stored this year.

“Thank you for everything you girls do, we really appreciate it,” said Sally Casazza, chair of the toy program.

Alluding to Wednesday's controversy, Cassaza asked stripper “Oriana” if the toy drive isn't simply about children, after all.

“It's definitely about the kids, nothing more,” Oriana said.

As the dancers posed for photos with the oversized check, a handful of male firefighters looked on.

“God bless 'em,” one said.

After the media frenzy, Oriana, 22, became emotional as she wandered quietly through the aisles at the warehouse, looking at shelves piled high with coloring books, puzzles, games and other toys.

“I think this is great,” she said, wiping away tears. “I remember one Christmas we didn't have a lot … this is going to be special for a lot of kids.”

The strip clubs have presented their check for the toy drive at the fire station at least one year in the past, and it wasn't clear Wednesday why the plan was nixed this year.

Fire department spokeswoman Mindy Talmadge said the chief discouraged the event “just because of the nature of it … not that we don't appreciate the check.”

The firefighters are still collecting new, unwrapped toys, and donations can be dropped off at any fire station.

There is a particular need for items for girls 11 and older, and for infants, one toy drive worker said.

Monetary donations are also being sought. Those seeking more information on the program or how to donate can call (415) 777-0440.

The firefighters' toy program is the city's largest, distributing 200,000-plus toys to more than 40,000 disadvantaged kids year-round, including about 40,000 toys during last year's holiday season, according to the fire department.

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