Joe Gallart has been collecting toy donations since 2016. What started as a simple thing, working with Toys for Tots, has blossomed into a bigger project throughout the years.
“In 2016, a friend of mind had told me about a car rally in Glen Cove, and at the time I was into cars and, I decided to go there,” he said. Gallart added he was informed that at the gathering, toys were also being collected.
“So, I rounded up a few toys, 21 in total, just from you know, some close friends and family,” he recounted. “And when I got down there, I really saw what it was and it was unbelievable.”
The following year, remembering how much he enjoyed collecting and orchestrating donations, he decided to do it again. In 2017, he ended up with around 150 toys, he said, and from there, his efforts grew year after year.
This year, Gallart is still collecting toys, an effort that’s evolved into a charitable mission, that lasts all year. A resident of Merrick since 2008, friends, family and the community drops off toys to his home, which get stored in his garage. In Bellmore, East Meadow and other nearby towns, there’s businesses with drop off bins. Toys donated at these collection locations all get added to Gallart’s total collection.
What has changed this holiday season, is that while Gallart is running his donation with the same mission and purpose — this time, however, his efforts are under a new name, Desirae’s Darlings, in memory of his daughter, Desirae Gallart.
Desirae died in 2010 at 24, and having grown up in Queens, Gallart said she always loved visiting Merrick. Gallart mentioned in particular that she enjoyed visiting the Norman J. Levy Park & Preserve, referred to colloquially as “Merrick Mountain.” Gallart said he has posters of Desirae in his garage, the main place where all the toys get compiled year after year, but he never put his mission and her memory together.
“Last year, we delivered 5,000 toys,” Gallart. “I decided, you know what? I’m going to form this charitable organization, in my daughter’s name and her memory, and going forward we’ll collect toys each year, and we’ll donate it to Toys for Tots, but we’ll do it for Desirae’s Darlings.
“It kind of jumped at me last year, because in my garage, I have these two big posters, I guess they’re 24 by 36 (inches),” he added. “She’s always there.”
The main toy drop off for Toys for Tots will take place this year on Dec. 3 at the Nassau Coliseum at 1255 Hempstead Turnpike, Uniondale from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Toys for Tots, which was founded by the United States Marine Corps Reserve in 1947, accepts new, unwrapped toys, and distributes them to those less fortunate during the holiday season.
For more on Gallart’s efforts, visit DesiraesDarlings.org. There, one can find an Amazon Toy Registry, as well as links for Venmo and PayPal, if someone wants to make a monetary donation.
Gallart’s contact information can be found on the site and those interested in supporting the cause can also visit Desirae’s Darlings on Facebook, for information leading up to the toy drop off next month.