Fired Santa helps make Lefty's toy drive merry

December 28, 2010 7:14:11 PM PST
The Bay Area's most famous Santa has earned a well-deserved break. After getting fired by Macy's, Santa John, as he is known, landed on his feet helping with the well-known Lefty O'Doul's toy drive.

Once the Christmas rush is over and all the gifts have been unwrapped, what happens to Santa? Some say the big guy "sleeps for a really long time, because delivering presents around the world is a tough job."

But what if you are John Toomey, the Santa that made national headlines when he was fired from Macy's Union Square just before the holiday? He says he is also headed north, back to his home where he just plans to take some time off and relax.

"The story that I told that seemed to offend these people is a story that I'd told for more than 20 years and I stole it from George Carlin and if you're going to steal, steal from the best," Toomey said.

The reaction to news of his firing was immediate. Lefty O'Doul's owner Nick Bovis saw an opportunity and offered him a spot to spread his holiday cheer and assist in their annual toy drive. The decision paid off.

"This year was the best toy drive that we ever had because we had Santa as our spokesperson," Bovis said.

"Thanks to Lefty O'Doul's, their goal was to collect 15,000 toys, they hit their goal and a lot of kids got toys," San Francisco firefighter Keith Onishi said.

Starting in 1949, the toy drive has evolved from firefighters repairing broken bikes, to a true celebration of the holiday spirit. But, as fate would have it, after 74 years, Station 30 will have to move and the toy drive now needs a new space for next year.

"We'll basically be homeless until we can find another location, which is tough, we're trying to find a city building that's vacant, there's not too many," Bovis said.


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