How a Hawaii man turned a small toy drive into a community movement

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) — With the holidays just around the corner, families far and wide are focusing on all that needs doing: shopping, party planning and gift giving.

But for Mark Imaizumi, organizing a toy fundraiser for Keiki in Need is high on his list.

“I think it probably started in 2017 to a lesser extent,” he said, standing amid a huge pile of toys.

“People started with it and then every year it got bigger and bigger and the participation got bigger and bigger and bigger.”

Every year, he gathers his elves to put on some Christmas magic and raise funds from near and far.

“This is just the beginning and blessed this is a compilation of a participating group of people from Hilo to Manhattan who just want to be able to somehow contribute to the magic for the kids,” he said.

Just days after his 2022 ride, he’s already raised over $3,000 in toys and cash, and he’s adding more every day. He does the shopping so donors don’t have to.

As a local entertainer and native of Hilo, Imaizumi has garnered a loyal following, with most donations coming from longstanding friendships and social media platforms. Even colleagues and neighboring companies lend a hand.

“The inspiration behind it is that if we can, we should,” he said. “It’s really a blessing. I mean when you just stand in the middle and think of all the people who gave from the heart.”

Friends near and far donate annually to Mark Imaizumi’s toy drive to benefit local Keiki.

Imaizumi is working with Toys for Tots, who will be picking up the loot in mid-December. The toys will go to Keiki of lesser fortunes, including those at Kapiolani Medical Center. The COVID precautions have changed the rules for sharing toys in the hospital, so he has made it his mission to ensure they have an ample supply for all children.

“There is no age, there are no limits. We collect everything, everything for everyone,” added Imaizumi.

He also thanks those who help him with this annual initiative, saying: “This is not a one-off project, I just encourage it. But I’m standing in the midst of gifts from a group of people… So I just want to say thank you to everyone.”

It’s an act of kindness that proves that not all holiday heroes wear red Santa suits and travel with flying reindeer.

If you would like to donate, he accepts cash donations through Venmo under the username @Marina-DelRey. Unwrapped new toys are also accepted in person at his office, Islands Hospice in Honolulu, 820 Mililani Street, Suite 400.

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