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Officer Steven Smith's mother, Lisa, of Chicago Ridge, stands outside the Chicago Ridge Village Hall, promoting the annual Officer Steven Smith Toy Drive. (Supplied photo)

Officer Steven Smith's mother, Lisa, of Chicago Ridge, stands outside the Chicago Ridge Village Hall, promoting the annual Officer Steven Smith Toy Drive. (Supplied photo)

Chicago Ridge police honor memory of Steven Smith with toy drive

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By Kelly White

Richards High School graduate Steven Smith joined the Marines and served in Afghanistan before coming home to join the Chicago Ridge Police Department as a part-time officer. He soon became a full-time officer, working a job he loved.

“Steven was an amazing young man who loved life, believed in living it to the fullest, protecting those he loved and cared about,” his mother, Lisa, said. “He loved to make people laugh, and more than anything, he believed in helping others.”

Sadly, Smith’s life was cut short, in 2015, when driving back from a wedding with a cousin on the Tri-State Tollway. It was there when an impaired 22-year-old woman, driving the wrong-way on the highway, struck the car Smith was riding in.

The woman and Smith’s cousin were taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

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For the third year in a row, the Chicago Ridge Police Department is hosting the Officer Steven Smith Toy Drive.

Smith, only 27 at the time, tragically lost his life.

Smith, a positive, fun-loving Ohio State football fan who aspired to be a police officer from the time he was in kindergarten, in Chicago Ridge. He lived just a couple of blocks from the police department. He is survived by his parents and a brother.

The Chicago Ridge Police Department is dedicated to remembering Smith’s life and legacy he left on the department and in the Chicago Ridge community. Police officers still remain close to Smith’s mother, Lisa, who still resides in Chicago Ridge, and enjoy sharing stories of Smith in good-heart and cheer.

For the third year, in the spirit of giving, the department is hosting the Officer Steven Smith Toy Drive.

“When I was asked if I would want to do a Toy Drive in Steven’s Memory along with the Chicago Ridge Police Department, I gladly accepted,” Lisa Smith said. “For me it was a way to give back to my community. The same community that reached out with so much love and compassion during the hardest time of my life. A community that my son loved and grew up in.”

Lisa, along with members of the Chicago Ridge Police Department, decided to have the toys benefit those in need during the Christmas holiday.

“Everyone that knew Steve will say what a great guy he was and to be around,” Jennifer Pfizenmaier, administrative assistant at the Chicago Ridge Police Station, said. “This is a way to keep Steve’s memory alive. Chicago Ridge police officers will tell you that Steve was always a big kid at heart. By holding this toy drive every year, they are bringing joy to kids’ hearts through Steve.”

Donations of new, unwrapped and unopened toys are being collected through December 17 at the police station, 10425 S. Ridgeland Avenue; the Chicago Ridge Village Hall, 10455 S. Ridgeland Avenue; the Chicago Ridge Fire Department, 10063 Virginia Avenue; through the Chicago Ridge Lion Club, through Jon’s Way Youth Group, and at any school within District 127.5.

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Lisa Smith, of Chicago Ridge, and her son, Steven Smith, who worked for the Chicago Ridge Police Department as a full-time officer. (Supplied photo)

Donations can include: puzzles, board games, art items, action figures and more, but no stuffed animals. Monetary donations, along with gift cards, will also be accepted.

“The toy drive has grown as the years have gone by,” Pfizenmaier said. “It started at the police station, but now schools and community organizations are also getting involved. Parents are putting up toy donation boxes in their work offices. It’s really wonderful.”

“I was not expecting the toy drive to continue to grow the way it has, nor did I know that it would also help to pull other community organizations together; but I am so very great full it has,” Lisa Smith said. “We have an amazing community here, filled with lots of love and pride. We are a family.”

This year, like last year, the Advocate Children’s Hospital will not be accepting any physical toy donations due to the COVID-19 pandemic; however, the toys will be delivered by members of the Chicago Ridge Police Department to families in need who are currently residing in the Chicago Ridge community.

All monetary donations and gift cards will be going directly to benefit children currently staying at Advocate Children’s Hospital.

All of the generous donations will be delivered just in time for Christmas.

“The Officer Steven Smith Toy Drive is such a great event for Chicago Ridge for so many reasons,” Karrie Grabinski, founder of Jon’s Way Youth Group in Chicago Ridge, said. “It pulls so many in the village together for such a great cause. It honors Officer Steven Smith’s memory in such a heartwarming way. It helps his family, friends and the Chicago Ridge Police Department who miss Officer Smith so much. It creates a lot of excitement around the holidays. And creates a lot of opportunities for fun, creativity, and benevolence. The best part is knowing that so many children will get to feel the magic of Christmas.”

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