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

Two dozen kids were at the Union Square hub at 4 am, dressed in Giants jerseys and singing Christmas carols.

KCBS’ Tim Ryan Reports:

Lefty O’Doul’s owner Nick Bovis said it’s all for a great cause.

“You can either drop the toys off at 333 Geary, the corner of Powell and Geary and we’ll have our curbside elves help unload toys or you can call Luxor Cab and they’ll pick up the toys from your house,” Bovis said.

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 10,000 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.

“It’s incredibly rewarding and very moving,” said San Francisco firefighter David Amituanai. “I have to try to hold back tears.”

Amituanai takes this job seriously.

“I saw father’s eyes yesterday of a typical working Joe and you could see the gratitude in his eyes,” he said. “You can also imagine what it must be like for a working proud person to come and have to ask.”

Helping receive the toys 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.

The San Francisco Firefighters Toy Drive is the city’s largest and the nation’s oldest program of its kind.

(© 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed)

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