By Steve Sears
You can hear, even feel the excitement emanating from Dr. Mark A. Brzozowski’s voice.
“This year,” says Brzozowski, “was actually a record. We were actually standing there holding the toys up, so they wouldn’t fall out as we were packing up to the top of the trailer.”
Brzozowski is speaking about Operation Ho Ho Ho, an extremely worthwhile holiday, gift giving charity that had its beginning with a pick-up truck both in West Long Branch and Whippany, and now has graduated to a trailer 21 years later, blossoming further via the internet and social media – all in the name of loving generosity.
“Henry’s the one who really initiated the whole thing,” says Brzozowski, owner of Whippany Chiropractic (133 Whippany Road, 973-884-1500, www.whippanychiropractic.com) of Henry Hansch, former owner of Hansch Landscaping, “up until four yours ago until I got involved. Basically, I’m a centrally located office, so it’s easy for people to drop off the toys. And it’s my good friend, Nancy Leone, who’s head of Girl Scout Troop 5150, who was getting a lot of toys and they dropped them off at her house. It was kind of inconvenient for people, and then Cub Scout Pack 40 had reached out to me – they collect toys every year – and everyone was looking for a place to drop off their toys. And the last couple of years Mike Wasko, who’s the Superintendent of Schools, and the entire school collects toys. So, I (Whippany Chiropractic) became the main drop off area pretty much”
2018 was perhaps the voluminous toy collection period ever. Toys, which are collected in November and December, are then delivered on Christmas Eve via trailer to Ronald McDonald house in Long Branch. The drive gathers unwrapped toys of all types for children ages 2 – 16 years of age.
Up to this Christmas season, approximately 18,467 gifts and toys had been collected since 1997. “It’s such a simple idea,” says Hansch, then a sophomore at Monmouth University and, instead of getting year end bonus gifts from his clients, he would recommend when sending out a note with Christmas cards that folks instead drop off a toy instead. “That’s kind of where it all started.” He that first year had collected toys up until Christmas Eve and, finding many charitable organizations and gift drop-off locations had already reached completed their yearly collections, he sought a worthy organization in that area for a place to gift the toys. He was directed to the Ronald McDonald House where he was warmly greeted, the gifts accepted with great gratitude.
His family also hosted a large holiday party every year, and there was a little note on the party invitation that toys would be collected at the get together. The party was held at the former Hansch family home in Whippany, which the family has since sold. “Every Friday right before Christmas,” says Brzozowski, “they would have a holiday party at their house. Everyone would come to the holiday party with a toy. Once they sold the house, that’s when they needed other places to bring the toys to. I feel like our office took over the role, like we’re the final spot where his parents used to be.”
In Brzozowski’s opinion, social media has helped significantly. “I started posting on social media, telling people you can be involved and not even come to our office. Why don’t you place your order on Amazon? And they shipped it to me for free. So now we’re getting toys from all over, not only locally, but from people in other states that want to feel part of something which is great.”
Hansch adds, “As you friends grow, your friends work at different places with different people, everybody kind of gets involved and it spreads to another and spreads to another. That’s how it’s just naturally grown, really organically, people having a good heart and spreading the word about it.”
For Brzozowski, the biggest Operation Ho Ho Ho thrill is people that show up that aren’t even patients of his. “People just come from wherever when they get wind of it and say, ‘Hey, I’m just here to drop off toys.’ It’s just the expression on people’s faces; they know that they’re doing something for others.”
Hansch weighs in. “It’s just a simple idea. At the end of the day, everybody has such a huge heart, they want to help others, and by doing this every year, they see new folks coming in and getting involved, new organizations getting involved, and with all this turmoil on the news and all these other things, at the end of the day, we’re all really good people, and at the core of it we all have a really good heart, it’s the simple things in life. Giving toys, helping out. That’s what life is about.”
For my information about contributing in the future, and for the history of Operation Ho Ho Ho, please visit www.operationhohoho.com. For more information about Ronald McDonald House in Long Branch, visit www.rmh-cnj.org.