The holidays can be a stressful time for many parents who want to celebrate with their children but face the harsh reality of limited budgets. And for moms experiencing homelessness over the holidays – like those staying at Solid Ground’s Broadview Shelter and Transitional Housing – making the holidays special is an even greater challenge.
So imagine the joyfest (i.e., happy chaos) that ensued on December 9 when the Mariner Moose himself – dressed in a Santa suit sporting the number “00” – burst into the room during a Broadview holiday pizza party, handed out signed posters, and took photographs with each kid!
Adding to the fun and mayhem, longtime Seattle Mariners baseball broadcaster Rick Rizzs, former M’s centerfielder Dave Henderson and second baseman Julio Cruz greeted the kids at their eye level – resembling gentle giants as they sat on tiny child-size chairs – and did art projects with the kids and autographed photos. Dave gamely played along as one small boy with a basketball (and a very strong toss!) launched the ball high and Dave headed it back. One mom dressed her one-year-old in a pink Mariners outfit for the occasion. “Christmas came early!” exclaimed another grinning mom, “Merry Christmas to me!”
An annual tradition at Broadview for almost two decades, this party (and others like it) is part of Rick & Dave’s Toys for Kids. Eighteen years ago, Rick Rizzs and Dave Henderson sat enjoying a cold beer at F.X. McRory’s in Pioneer Square a few months before the holidays. A news story came on the pub’s TV reporting on the more than 8,000 people experiencing homelessness in King County at the time. Rick and Dave wondered, “What about the kids? What kind of holiday celebration could their families afford?” The guys decided they wanted to do something to ensure that even kids without a place to call home had a way to celebrate.
So they rounded up a group of then-active players – including Jay Buhner, Raúl Ibañez, Bill Krueger, Edgar Martínez, Jamie Moyer, Jeff Nelson, John Olerud, Matt Sinatro, Omar Vizquel and Dan Wilson – and they held a fundraising dinner which raised $18,000 that first year to buy toys for kids for the holidays. They did some research to find out how they could get the toys to kids in need, and Broadview was among the first three organizational recipients.
The next year, the Mariners RBI Club members got involved, including Bill King, Virg Fassio and Bob Simeone, and they added an auction to the dinner. (RBI stand for “Real Baseball Involvement;” the Club consists of volunteers who connect the Mariners with local community and charity activities.) Each year since, the amount raised and the number of organizations supported have grown. This year’s event was held at the The Harbor Club Bellevue. $225,000 was raised, resulting in 7,000 children – all of whom are accessing services at 19 different local human service organizations – receiving holiday joy via Toys for Kids.
While Toys for Kids connects with thousands of kids each year, parties with the Mariner Moose are special and only happen with a handful of smaller organizations such as Broadview. At this year’s party, the RBI Club’s Bill King and his 17-year-old daughter Sarah served pizza and treats to the Broadview families. Bill says that Sarah has been helping out since she was seven years old, and the annual event has made a big impact on her. He recalls that one year, as he and Sarah left the building after a Broadview party, a young teen boy opened his window and called out to them, “Thank you! This has been the best day of my life!”
Rick Rizzs & Dave Henderson would like to thank the many sponsors who contribute to making Rick & Dave’s Toys for Kids an ongoing (and continuously growing) organization: