Collecting toys for children in need over the holidays has become a tradition for brothers Alex and Nico Suppiah of Los Altos. The teens gathered 100 toys in 2016 and 280 the next year.
In 2018, the Suppiahs outdid themselves, collecting nearly 500 toys and books they donated to victims of the Camp Fire in Paradise in December.
“It felt good to be able to help out these kids who had lost their homes to the fire, and it made me feel grateful for what I have,” Alex, 16, said.
Nico, 15, added, “It’s also good to help out in this world; one kind gesture to someone can change their entire day or even week. I wish we could have done more to help out.”
In past years, the brothers brought the toys to a Los Altos fire station and firefighters donated them to children in need throughout the county. In 2018, the Suppiahs chose to donate the toys to kids in Paradise.
“We do this because we believe it would be nice for kids to receive a Christmas gift when they otherwise would not be able to get one,” Alex said.
They launched the toy drive in early December by contacting family, friends and fellow Boy Scouts, along with advertising it on Facebook. In addition, Alex, the secretary of the Creston Neighborhood Committee Board, sent a message to local residents asking them to support their drive.
The brothers stuffed 400 toys in the trunk and skybox of the family car Dec. 21 and drove four hours north to Paradise with their mom and Nanor, their good friend.
With help from Pastor Garrison Matthew Chaffee, they distributed many of the toys that day and gave the rest to the pastor to hand out at a local community center.
The Suppiah brothers, who attend Summit Denali charter school in Sunnyvale, were devastated by the destruction they witnessed in Paradise.
“We were just lost for words when we saw the burnt homes. ... (It was) heartbreaking when we met the kids,” Nico said. “But you should see their faces when they received the gifts we gave them. They were so happy and grateful.”
Nico shared a story of meeting two kids: an 8-year-old girl and her 10-year-old brother. The siblings were rescued from their burning home by an elderly couple but lost their parents in the fire. The couple plans to adopt the children.
According to Alex, many of the people who lost their homes in the fire took refuge in trailers on a farmer’s land. They have also received help from area residents whose homes were spared, who cooked them meals. Shipments of winter clothing came from Utah a few days prior to the Suppiahs’ arrival.
“It’s amazing to us to see how these families help each other in times like this,” Alex said.
Alex and Nico said they plan to return in June to help rebuild Paradise. They intend to volunteer their time to assist in the construction of new buildings and homes.
In the meantime, the brothers are trying to raise $20,000 toward those efforts. The money will be used to buy materials to help the rebuilding of Paradise’s church. The brothers want to start a library and build a playground for the children to use.