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Toys in lieu of flowers from funerals donated to veterans

2,500 toys given to veterans and their families
Posted at 6:20 PM, Dec 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-18 18:20:17-05

WEST SENECA, N.Y. (WKBW) — 2,500 toys - that's how many Christmas gifts were collected for Operation Toy Soldier. Donations were collected by Lakeside Memorial Funeral Home to offer veterans an opportunity to Christmas shop for free. Most of the toys came from families that have said goodbye to their loved ones at the funeral home.

"They just brought in ten bags of toys and put them around the ern and said that's what my dad would have wanted," said Charles Castigia, the president of Lakeside Memorial Funeral Home.

He said a great amount of families asked for toys instead of flowers at funerals.

"Buffalo is the best. When you need help in this community, there's nobody better than Buffalo," said Dean Jackson, the GM at Keller Chevrolet, said.

Josue Velez left the army two years ago because of a hip injury. If it wasn't for operation toy soldier, his two children would have gone without presents under the tree.

"I was literally in tears walking out of here last year because I knew I wasn't going to be able to afford anything for my kids other than pay the rent and the gas and electric and stuff," said Velez.

Sheron Parrish left the service five years ago. She said she was feeling down about the holidays because she was worried about affording gifts. Operation Toy Soldier changed her entire mood.

"People are constantly saying thank you for your service. No. Thank you for this," said Parrish.