Teens shop for $100,000 worth of holiday gifts for older SF kids, often overlooked in toy drives

ByLena Howland KGO logo
Friday, December 8, 2023
Teens shop for $100,000 worth of holiday gifts for older SF kids
Teen volunteers from Dig Deep SF shopped for $100,000 worth of holiday gifts for older San Francisco kids, who are often overlooked in toy drives.

SAN RAFAEL, Calif. (KGO) -- Some say it wouldn't really feel like Christmas without helping others.

One by one, an army of elves raced into a San Rafael Target on Friday morning to help make sure Santa doesn't miss any San Francisco families this holiday season.

"There's nothing better than when they get behind those carts, and they have a Target store all to themselves, and they get to buy whatever they want, and they're going to give it away to a great kid and a great family," said Dutch Haze, the founder and Chief Elf of Dig Deep SF.

The nonprofit behind it all, Dig Deep SF, was founded 10 years ago by two men raised by single moms in tough times.

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Now, the group made up of young professionals spent the past week asking friends and family to "dig deep" and boy, did they.

"We decided to really engage all of these teenagers, middle schoolers to go after their parents and friends and we got almost $100,000 in over a week," Haze said.

Teens behind the fundraising got to be the ones doing the shopping.

"I think I'll definitely be looking for some play trucks, maybe like a Tonka," said Xander Nhele, a 13-year-old Dig Deep SF.

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They're buying gifts for older youth between the ages of eight to 12, often overlooked in most toy drive efforts.

"We picked out a lot of Legos, because Legos were a part of my childhood, so we kind of wanted to give the kids our childhood," said Jack Clark, a 17-year-old Dig Deep SF volunteer.

The toys will be benefiting families that might be going through a tough time this holiday season, through the Salvation Army's Angel Tree program.

"I think everybody knows the dollar's not going as far as it used to, and in the Bay Area, this is one of the highest costs of living in the world," said Matthew Madsen, a Major in the Salvation Army. "And we're trying to make a difference for those families that are stuck in the margin and there are a lot of families that live there."

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It was a project that meant the world to 16-year-old Landri Ahern, a returning volunteer.

"It's so rewarding to be able to give the gifts to kids who otherwise wouldn't get it, and it's just an amazing thing and it's so fun," Ahern said. "Like all of your friends, people you've been working with to raise money go and you're just shopping galore."

All of the toys purchased by Santa's elves on Friday will be handed out at the Salvation Army's toy distribution event for registered families in San Francisco on Dec. 19.

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