Couple’s Halloween party toy drive brings joy to Phoenix families this Christmas

Couple’s Halloween party toy drive brings joy to Phoenix families this Christmas

It all started with a Halloween party in 2000. That’s when John Knight and Dr. Dean G. Fairchild (Gordy) asked their roughly 20 guests to bring an unwrapped toy for a girl or boy. They took the 20 toys and donated them to The Salvation Army.

Now, decades later, the annual bash has grown to include more than 400 guests, resulting in more than 700 toys—all of which go to kids in need at Christmastime through The Salvation Army and the Boy’s and Girl’s Club of the Valley.

“It is in giving that we become better people,” Knight said. “We just try to do as much as we can…You just realize that you have little time here on Earth, and you should have a great time and have fun and enjoy life, but you also have to help those that struggle in need.”

He said he and Fairchild are guided by a principle, “Noblesse Oblige,” that with privilege comes responsibility—a phrase he learned through the film “Auntie Mame.”

Couple’s Halloween party toy drive brings joy to Phoenix families this Christmas
Courtesy Salvation Army Southwest Division.

Knight said each year they aim to give more time, and to open up their home for events to support a range of charities. More than 13 of which are part of their annual commitments and afterlife trust. Additionally, Knight served on the Kroc Center Advisory Board several years ago and remains active in a number of ways, including ringing the bell at the kettle.

“I think The Salvation Army’s probably the best charity on Earth. It’s helped my family enormously over the years,” Fairchild said. “All the work The Salvation Army does…It’s just a wonderful international organization. And it’s my favorite charity.”

Preparations for the Halloween party begin months in advance, with invitations going out in July, Knight said. Toys start coming in around that time, too, with the last batch wrapping up about two weeks after the party, he said. The effort also has an online following of people who send toys after they post across LinkedIn and Facebook.

Phoenix South Mountain Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center Corps Officer Captain Caroline Rowe has attended the party over the years, and this year, she brought her kids. She said they all dressed up—a prerequisite for attending—and had “a blast.”

“I think The Salvation Army’s probably the best charity on Earth. It’s helped my family enormously over the years,” Fairchild said. “All the work The Salvation Army does…It’s just a wonderful international organization. And it’s my favorite charity.”

“John and Gordy host the largest Halloween party I have ever attended or heard of. Hundreds of people come from around Laveen and bring a toy to get in the door of his massive soiree,” she said. “He speaks about the good that The Salvation Army does, and really helps to tell our story.”

Knight said their goal with the party is to provide a unique experience at their home, which rests on a little over an acre on the side of a mountain preserve. The pair built the house, and the grounds contain a range of features, including a temple, decks, gardens, bridges and paths to wander, all of which lend themselves to the merriment.

“This is a way that we come together in fun and friendship and food, festivity—you name it—and it has really become quite an epic event,” Knight said. “Our house is sort of built around for people to be able to come and have fun. There’s trails and fire pits and waterfalls and decks and steps and altars…the only thing we don’t have is a ferris wheel and a merry-go-round out there.”

Couple’s Halloween party toy drive brings joy to Phoenix families this Christmas
Courtesy Salvation Army Southwest Division.

He said he and Fairchild make all the dishes for the event and have different people cover the entertainment, cleanup and drinks, among other things.

“It’s a lot of orchestration,” he said. “And it’s just like Christmas, it comes in and it happens.”

Following the event, Knight said they have one to two rooms full of toys that they load into cars and take to the Kroc Center and the Boys and Girls Club.

Rowe said the hundreds of toys The Salvation Army receives from the event help some 50 families at Christmas, something she added the pair has done for years—and without recognition.

“The Phoenix Kroc Center is part of the Phoenix Metro, and as a full unit, we all help almost 9,000 families in the Phoenix area,” she said. “So the local Christmas distribution is Christmas for many of the citizens of South Mountain.”


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  • Did you know The Salvation Army served some 24 million Americans last year fighting hunger, homelessness, substance abuse and more? Where can you help? Take our quiz to find your cause and learn how you can join in today.
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