Boise resident tries to save Christmas for Camp Fire victims with one-man charity drive

‘Now we have nothing. We’re free,’ Paradise homeowner returns to ashes

Paradise, California homeowners return to find their homes in ashes on Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018 after Camp Fire destroyed them.
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Paradise, California homeowners return to find their homes in ashes on Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018 after Camp Fire destroyed them.

The whoosh of warm air meeting cold enveloped Mike Salsedo as he entered ToyTown in Boise with a determined look about him.

With a friendly greeting, he approached the first employee he saw and asked to see a supervisor. When addressed by the manager, he said, simply, “I’m looking for some help with a toy drive.”

ToyTown is one of many establishments Salsedo has visited in the last two weeks. On that particular day, Salsedo spent hours looking for businesses willing to support the Treasure Valley to Paradise Project, a self-started toy drive to benefit the children affected by the deadly Camp Fire, which all but destroyed the town of Paradise, California, last month.

“The devastation is just terrible,” Salsedo said. “So many people down there are impacted, but I’m worried about the kids.”

A resident of Boise since 2010, Salsedo spent most of his life teaching in Chico, California, where many who lost their homes in Paradise are being housed.

Salsedo’s first connection to Boise was the 1971 Camellia Bowl, where the Boise State football team faced off against Chico State — his college football team. Decades later, Salsedo moved to Boise to retire. He happened to meet up with some of the players he’d competed against all those years ago, even creating new friendships with them.

About two weeks ago, after hearing stories from friends still living in Chico, Salsedo decided to do what he could to help the children who had lost everything ahead of the holiday season.

Starting with nothing but a single pickup truck, Salsedo set out to find drop-off locations for toy donations, a warehouse or storage area to keep the donations safe and a large vehicle to transport them. So far, Salsedo has managed to procure two garages and a truck donated by U-Haul on Chinden Boulevard, as well as eight drop-off locations:

Axiom Fitness: 7326 W. Fairview Ave., 3505 E. Monarch Sky Lane, 1455 S. Country Terrace Way and 801 E. Parkcenter Blvd.

Carter Family Dentistry: 7878 W. Ustick Road

CSL Plasma: 3419 N. Cole Road

Horizon Home Health & Hospice: 63 W. Willowbrook Drive in Meridian, 312 E. Main St. in Emmett, 211 E. Logan St. in Caldwell, 560 N. 6th E. St. in Mountain Home and 35 W. Idaho St. in Weiser

On the Spot Cleaners & Laundry: 3363 N. Cole Road, 1551 W. Cherry Lane

Sockeye Brewing: 12542 W. Fairview Ave., 3019 N. Cole Road

ToyTown: 7960 W. Rifleman St., 3327 N. Eagle Road

Wild World of Golf: 8057 Emerald St.

ToyTown, in addition to being a drop-off location, has offered a 10 percent discount for those making toy purchases to donate to the drive.

“We live in a very fortunate world of fun and toys, and it’s nice for people to have that opportunity,” said Laurel Condon, manager of ToyTown’s Boise location. “Any time when there’s a disaster like this and someone is able to help out, I think that’s a great thing to do.”

As for getting the toys to children in need, Salsedo said he plans to simply drive to the various places were survivors are in Chico and hand them out himself on Dec. 23. Since he’s not attached to any kind of organization, Salsedo said he will only accept donations in the form of toys or gift cards to help pay for gas — no cash.

“In fundraisers, when you ask for cash only, it tends to turn people off,” Salsedo said. “I don’t want people to be worried about where their money is going.”

Anyone interested in donating or getting involved with the Treasure Valley to Paradise Project can visit the drop-off spots listed above or contact Mike Salsedo at