Donated toys piled up on a table in the Spokane Valley Fire Department administration building, but Rick Freier was looking at the picture of his daughter, Josie, that sat in the middle.
Freier put out the call for donations to the Marine Corps Toys for Tots in his daughter’s memory.
Josie, 15, and one of her best friends, McKenzie Mott, 16, were killed in an accident in Spokane Valley on Saturday after the 2002 Infiniti I35 they were riding in hit a tree. The driver, 16-year-old Preston Maher, was seriously injured in the crash but has been released from the hospital.
The toy drive is a way to give friends, fellow students, teachers and others touched by the tragedy a way to channel their hurt, Rick Freier said Wednesday.
“This is something that Jo Jo would really dig,” he said as he sat in front of the pile of toys. “Toys for Tots is going to have a great year because of two little girls and a boy.”
Central Valley School District has launched a companion “Toys for Titans” drive to benefit the holiday charity, and toys can be dropped off at any district school.
Freier served in the Marine Corps Reserve for more than 20 years before joining the Spokane Valley Fire Department, where he works as a fire investigator with his arson dog, Mako.
He said the toy drive was his daughter’s favorite charity. “It was something she was born into,” he said. “We all did it.”
Freier wiped away tears as he described his daughter working in the Toys for Tots warehouse and picking out toys for needy families. “Every kid loves Christmas, right?” he said. “Jo Jo loved giving presents more than she loved getting them.”
He described his daughter as caring and passionate and willing to stick up for others. She was an avid soccer player; her father was her first coach. “She quickly outgrew my ability to teach her anything,” he noted. Her 8-year-old sister was just starting to play the game and the two would play together in the yard for hours, Freier said.
Freier said his family is not angry with Maher, who was his daughter’s friend. “We not only have the capacity to forgive, but we have forgiven,” he said. “She would not want and we do not want anyone to be angry about it. My wife prays for them. They’re good people. They’ve got a great son.”
The investigation into the accident is continuing and it will likely be several weeks before a decision is made about whether Maher will face charges, said Spokane County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Craig Chamberlin.
Mott’s family released a brief statement this week thanking the community for their love and support. “McKenzie Mott’s tragic end is the stone that the Lord has thrown into the pond of life we all live in, and its ripples have touched all of us in this community in some way,” the statement said.
Services for Josie Freier will take place Friday and Mott’s will be held the following day.
Freier said he has one request for friends and community members who want to attend his daughter’s funeral: Don’t wear black. Josie loved bright colors.