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Monday, December 21, 2015

Dr. Todd Retell from Lockport Dental Group, Valerie Oleksik, president of 
The MINI Cooper Club of WNY, Maria Fava, founder of the Believe Toy Drive 
2015, and Santa Shaw from Lockport Dental Group gather up some of the 
hundreds of toys that will be donated to patients at Women & Children’s 
Hospital of Buffalo. (CONTRIBUTED PHOTO)
For the third year in a row, kids who are receiving treatment at Women & Children’s Hospital in Buffalo will have a brighter Christmas thanks to Lockport resident Maria Fava, founder of the Believe Toy Drive. And the toys will be delivered in style, courtesy of the Mini Cooper Club of WNY.

“A few years ago I had major brain surgery at Women and Children’s Hospital and while recovering I had the pleasure of spending some time with the children on my floor,” Fava said. “So at Christmas I want to ‘pay it forward’ and return some of those smiles that were given to me.”

New and unwrapped toys, as well as cash, have been collected – and are still being accepted – at the following locations in Lockport:

  • Molinaro’s Ristorante, 90 Walnut St.
  • Lockport Music Center, 5996 Snyder Drive
  • Spring Lake Winery, 7373 Rochester Road
  • Lockport Dental Group 39 Elizabeth Drive
  • Advantage Physical Therapy, 5556 Davison Road

Delivering all those toys will also take quite an effort, and was spearheaded by Lockport Dental Group, a major supporter of the annual toy drive.

“We were looking at finding a U-Haul or something else to transport everything,” said Dr. Todd Retell. “But I also knew that one of my patients – Valerie Oleksik – was the president of The MINI Cooper Club of WNY and they love to do things for the community. So last year we pulled it off and it was amazing to see all those Mini Coopers cruising away with all the gifts.”

The MINI Club of WNY is a group of MINI Cooper enthusiasts located throughout all of WNY and currently has over 350 members.

“We get together to go on scenic drives, participate in car shows and just share our love for our cars. We also have participated in charitable events such as the Ride for Roswell, The Niagara Wine Trail Share the Bounty Food Drive as well as the Believe Toy Drive,” said Oleksik. “We’re thrilled to be part of this event again this year.”

In addition, the local Santa with a dental degree, Dr. James Shaw, has been instrumental in making this year’s drive the best one yet.  “Every year the event keeps getting bigger – and we’ll be delivering even more toys than last year, which is fantastic,” Shaw said.

According to Fava, the annual toy drive lets people focus on the traditional meaning of Christmas. “Let us appreciate family, enjoy giving to others, take part in selfless acts, focus on religious beliefs and celebrations, miracles of man-kind, helping others, romance, love and peace,” she said.  “I hope in the upcoming years to expand the charity to include a dinner for the families with a Christmas themed party/event with food donations from local restaurants and Christmas activities for the children.  Please contact me if you would like to get involved for next year’s planning.”

For more information  you can contact Fava at 940-1045 or There is also a Facebook page entitled Believe Toy Drive 2015 that includes a “wish list” from the hospital. Fava also has created a GoFundMe page where monetary donations for toy purchases may be made.

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