The occasion was the Philadelphia Flyers 10th Annual Toy Truck Parade, featuring the NHL's refrigeration truck that will be used to make ice for the 2010 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on New Year’s Day at Boston's Fenway Park between the Bruins and Flyers.
Co-sponsored by the Flyers and 92.5 WXTU, the Toy Truck Parade, with more than 150 holiday-decorated trucks, wound through the streets of Philadelphia, down the Schuylkill Expressway, onto Broad Street and into the vast Philadelphia sports complex.
Local fire companies, emergency-medical teams, area businesses and private citizens joined to donate more than 10,000 toys. Most stopped to view the NHL truck and talk to Dan Craig, the NHL's "ice guru" who will supervise the ice-making effort for the Jan. 1, 2010 game, as he did in Buffalo's Ralph Wilson Stadium in 2008 and last year at Chicago's Wrigley Field.
"Never be surprised by the generosity and character of the people of Philadelphia," said Flyers' two-time Stanley Cup-winning goaltender Bernie Parent. "After I got here in 1967, I realized it was a special place. Right from the beginning, the way they supported us on the ice and the way they've always
supported us in different functions like today, it's a beautiful thing. People have such passion in Philadelphia. When I see all these people delivering all these toys to help children, I get the chills."
As Parent spoke, seven gleaming white trucks bearing the blue logo of Concrete Cutting Systems of Philadelphia pulled up in front of the Wachovia Center's box office and what seemed like a small army started unloading dozens of brand-new children's bicycles.
"There should not be a reason a child wakes up on Christmas Day without a present," said Dave Nevrotsky, owner of Concrete Cutting Systems. "That's the reason we've done this every year for nine years. It just helps the kids, it's all about the kids. This is a joint effort with Utility Line Services, owned by Austin Mann. We're two construction companies that work together a lot.
"I have two children of my own, Brianne, 22, and David, 13, and my son loves being here every year," Nevrotsky said, pointing to his son among a group of more than a dozen people. "A bunch of our employees brought their families down. They made a great effort."
Andie Summers, weekday morning host on 92.5 WXTU, beamed as she watched truck after truck pull up to the door and their workers add to the growing "Toy Mountain" in the lobby.
"For the past 10 years, we've been asking listeners to decorate their trucks for the holidays and they all get in a caravan and make their way down here to the Wachovia Center to build the "Toy Mountain." The admission into the parade is a new, unwrapped toy for the kids of CAPE," she said.
"In the past, we've gotten close to 10,000 toys for the kids each year. Even though it's been windy and rainy, we still have 150 trucks in the parade. It's been so warm lately in the Delaware Valley that it's been hard to get into the Christmas spirit but this weekend always does it for us. Our listeners have been tried and true for these 10 years. Regardless of the weather, they always step up and this is what Christmas is all about. It's our chance to give back regardless of what the economy is doing. Everybody knows there is someone worse off than they are."
Lt. Henry Hasselhan of the Berlin, N.J., Fire Department was joined by fellow firefighters Mark Maloney, Chris Lattanzi, Josh Barclay, Chris Wampole and Joe Townsend. Hasselhan said it was the first year that they've joined the Toy Truck Parade and the first fund-raiser they've held to benefit needy children.
The Clifton Heights Fire Department put together several different groups to provide Christmas toys to children, said Assistant Chief Nick DePompeo. "We went to Borough Council and they made a donation as did the Republican Party, and we put up a sign on our front lawn that said this was the place to donate toys
"We raised $425 in the borough and went to Mapes Toy Store, and they contributed 200 toys, so our total donation comes to about $800."
Clifton Heights brought more than toys to the parade. They brought a crew of Santa's helpers that included Chief Engineer Dan Traband, Deputy Chief Jerry DePompeo, Capt. Kevin Cosentino, Lt. Dan Cuddhy, wives and children. They also brought one of the highlight vehicles in the parade.
"We've got five trucks here, three owned by the fire company and two privately owned," Nick DePompeo said. "This one here is a 1948 Mack L-Model fire truck that we had in service until 1990."
Inside the lobby, kids were getting their faces painted and their pictures taken with Santa Claus while rocking to a country-music band provided by 92.5 WXTU. Toy donors received a 10 percent discount at the Flyers' Fan Gear shop and many were looking for Winter Classic gear. They also received a discount voucher for the Flyers Wives Fight for Lives Carnival, and a foam puck, courtesy of the National Hockey League.