PetSmart in Surprise played Santa to the Glendale Police Department by delivering plush toys for the officers to give to children impacted by crime, and in schools and libraries.
The donation is part of PetSmart’s annual holiday toy drive, during which customers can purchase and donate a $5 plush toy from its Chance & Friends collection.
The purchased toys are gifted to local organizations to spread holiday cheer in the community. To further give back, for each Chance & Friends toy purchase, PetSmart donates 20% of the proceeds to PetSmart Charities to help pets in need.
In 2020, more than $1.64 million was raised from the Chance & Friends collection to support PetSmart Charities, and more than 2.5 million plush toys were donated.
Glendale Police Department public information officer Tiffany Ngalula said the plush toys first go to the Glendale Family Advocacy Center.
“It’s a one-stop shop for victims — children or adults,” she said. “That’s where our victim advocates are.”
Part of the Glendale Police Department, the advocacy center provides comprehensive and coordinated services to victims of child abuse, domestic and sexual violence, and other violent crimes. The toys will be gifted to children in their network, many of whom are dealing with trauma and personal challenges and may not receive holiday gifts outside of this donation.
“All West Valley agencies use the center and, specifically when a child goes in and has to give a statement or interview, we want victims to feel a little comfort.
“They’re allowed to choose a toy or stuffed animal to take home with them, so it’s not totally negative. It works to empower them.”
PetSmart gifted the department with about 2,500-plus toys, which outnumbers victims between Thanksgiving and Christmas. With the surplus, the Glendale Police Department gives the toys to Glendale schoolchildren; kids at Banner Thunderbird Medical Center; the Glendale Public Library for storytime; and Harvest Compassion Center, which provides food and clothing to the underserved in the Valley.
For five years, the Glendale Police Department has partnered with Carol G. Peck School in the Alhambra Elementary School District in Glendale. It is an Advancement Via Individual Determination school, which works to close the opportunity gap so all students can be prepared for “college, careers and life.”
“Their kids absolutely love it,” Ngalula said. “Some teachers have said they fully believe it’s the only toy the child gets for Christmas. Parents have to pay for other things, like food and clothes.
“This year, we were able to drop off donations and hand out stuffed animals to children in kindergarten through second grade at five Glendale schools. We dropped off toys at Thunderbird Hospital for children there and another 250 to the Glendale Public Library. The main library and the branches have storytime for kids. They hand them out there. Our officers carry the rest of the stuffed animals in their cars. If they see a child on a call on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, they give a toy to them.”
Ngalula said she’s proud of the community for coming together to donate the stuffed animals.
“The community is donating these stuffed animals, and PetSmart, in turn, gives them to us and we give them back to the children in the community,” she said.
“It’s wonderful that they’re giving them to the advocacy center. We don’t have that many children victims. So, it’s a great opportunity to go back to the schools and engage positively with the kids.”