California twins pass out candy canes at neighborhood light display, collect donations for Toys for Tots
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Twin 11-year-old siblings in southern California are passing out candy canes during their neighborhood's Christmas light show in hopes of raising enough money to buy presents for children whose families are suffering economic hardship during the coronavirus pandemic.
Troy and Cheyenne Valvo have been passing out candy canes to drivers during their neighborhood’s annual Homestead Holiday Lights Tour in Santa Clarita, Calif. for the past five years. The attraction, founded in part by their parents, draws thousands of visitors annually, and the brother and sister duo collect donations – which they normally use to purchase gifts for their local fire station's Christmas toy drive.
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“Just like Santa, not even the pandemic will stop them,” the twins' father, Mike Valvo, told Fox News. "Whether it's raining or it's windy outside, the kids are out there almost every single night.”
Troy and Cheyenne Valvo, 11-year-old twins, pose in front of their neighborhood Christmas light display. (Mike Valvo)
The Los Angeles County Fire Department, with assistance from KABC-TV, Toys for Tots, and Southern California firefighters, is hosting its 28th annual Spark of Love Toy Drive online this year due to the pandemic. That means Troy and Cheyenne will use the money they collect to purchase gifts through an online registry.
The siblings have raised about $2,200 so far this year – compared to their $2,000 total last season. Mike Valvo said his children took a break this week for a family vacation but will collect money again Monday and Tuesday – stopping in time before Christmas Eve to register for gifts. On average, he said the twins can collect about $200-250 a night.
The father said his children are aware that their annual holiday tradition is even more significant in 2020.
“As my kids would say, they know that there are a lot of families who have lost their jobs and that Santa – they still believe in Santa at 11 years old – because of COVID may not be able to make all of the trips," Mike Valvo said. "So in this case, there has to be other people willing to help out and fill in the gaps for parents and Santa where he’s not able to go to basically deliver the gifts."
With Cheyenne deciding to dress up as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer to add to the festivities, the pre-teens have passed out candy canes to those both driving and walking through the light display to advertise for their cause. But Mike Valvo wanted to emphasize that whether people have money to donate or not — everyone gets a candy cane as part of the Christmas spirit of giving.
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“We just like doing it for fun, and doing it because we always get gifts at Christmas, but sometimes other kids don’t,” Cheyenne told her hometown radio station KHTS. “A big thank you to those who donate, and also even if you don’t have money, you still get a candy.”
The pre-teens pass out candy canes to those both driving and walking through the light display. (Mike Valvo)
The family tradition started five years ago when a neighbor handed the children candy canes to pass out to visitors and someone ended up slipping them a dollar. Mike Valvo told Fox News that the twins begged him and his wife to purchase a large box of 500 candy canes from Sam’s Club and began passing them out in the street, collecting even more money. Unsure what to do with the extra cash, the family spotted the sign for Toy For Tots at the fire station, and the kids picked out toys at Walmart and Target to drop off.
When they didn't see the sign outside Fire Station 111 on Seco Canyon Road this year, the twins' mother called the fire department's main branch in Los Angeles. She was informed that because of the coronavirus, gifts would have to be collected virtually.
The drive aims to exceed last year’s collection of over 500,000 new and unwrapped toys and sports equipment. Firefighters and Marines will distribute gifts to underserved children and teens in Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Orange, Ventura, and Riverside counties.
Cheyenne dressed up as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer to get into the spirit. (Mike Valvo)
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The drive run through the fire department ends Thursday, Dec. 24 on Christmas Eve.
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