Brandman in the Community

Gifts pour in for Wish Tree benefiting O.C. residents with developmental disabilities

December 05, 2016 by Cindy O'Dell
Brandman's Kelly Rico talks with Regional Center of Orange County COO Janis White about Brandman's Wish Tree contribution.

Brandman’s Kelly Rico talks with Regional Center of Orange County COO Janis White about Brandman’s Wish Tree contributions.

Brandman University faculty and staff members from Central Administration and the Irvine campus are once again making the holidays a little better for some of the 18,000 people in Orange County with developmental disabilities.

Kelly Rico, senior executive assistant to Executive Vice Chancellor Saskia Knight, organized the first Wish Tree three years ago. Her former employer, the Regional Center of Orange County, offers the trees to businesses and individuals each year. She thought it would be a great way to show how #BrandmanCares about one of its communities.

The response was so good the first year that Rico has requested more names each year. This year 69 people are being helped, some with multiple gifts. The gifts include everything from toys to blankets to socks.

Executive Assistant Kelly Rico and Shannon Feightner, manager of Alumni Relations, with most of the donated gifts for the Wish Tree.

Executive Assistant Kelly Rico and Shannon Feightner, manager of Alumni Relations, with most of the donated gifts for the Wish Tree assembled in the Irvine Brandman lobby.

The Regional Center works as a broker, said Janis White, chief operating officer for the center.  As one of 21 regional centers in the state, the organization disperses state and federal funds to a variety of charities, such as Goodwill, and group homes that care for people with intellectual disabilities, cerebral palsy, autism, severe epilepsy and other developmental disabilities. Those funds cover the basics, said White, so extras at the holidays aren’t part of the budget.

That’s where companies or organizations such as Brandman come in. “This is a labor of love. The gifts go directly to the people they were bought for and will be under their trees,” said White. “We really appreciate the support that Brandman shows.”

The Regional Centers serve people from birth through their lifespan, including clients in their 90s. In addition to the Wish Tree program, people or businesses can make financial donations through Brian’s Fund, which is administered by a nonprofit organization. Those donations help fill in the gaps for gifts and to provide for emergencies and special needs not funded by any other source. Additional information is available by calling 714-796-5330.

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