December 20 was a busy day for Santa! Before setting off to deliver presents around the world, he spent the day visiting and helping give away over 3,500 toys to some 1,500 children, teens, and their families at our annual Christmas Celebration and Toy Giveaway at the Ronald Tutor Grand Ballroom at USC.
“Christmas is all about family and kids,” said SNN President & Co-Founder Areva Martin, Esq., “and this year we hosted not one, but two events, in order to bring Christmas to as many families as we can.”
On Thursday, doors to Lunch with Santa opened promptly at noon to our families, many of whom had been waiting in line since early in the morning. After being welcomed into the ballroom to a mix of recent pop hits and classic Christmas songs, families were served a hearty lunch courtesy of El Pollo Loco.
Children and parents participated in a variety of activities that were offered, including a beauty and mani-pedi station sponsored by Marinello Schools of Beauty, and arts and crafts tables by community partners Monica Holloway, 2E Network, Total Education Solutions, Immaculate Heart High School, LACOE Head Start, and the South Los Angeles Health Projects WIC Program.
Shortly after lunch was served, children eagerly lined up in three separate age groups for the toy giveaway. Thanks to the generosity of our sponsors and community partners, each child received three toys. Those who could not contain their excitement ripped into their gifts immediately, while others carefully kept the gifts in the bag, waiting to go home to find out what surprises Santa has in store for them.
Some of the parents were seen wiping away tears as they enjoyed the day’s festivities, as these toys might be the only ones they had under the tree this year. “Special Needs Network has one not only showed up but showed out,” said Crystal Edwards, a mother of two children on the autism spectrum. “The community is truly blessed.”
“I lost my breath when I won the [Nintendo] Wii,” said Priscilla Caffery, whose son has dyslexia and ADHD. Caffery recently moved into a new home, after living in her truck for the past three years.
Registration for our annual Christmas Care Exchange and Toy Giveaway opened online in early November. The responses came in quickly, and just three days after invitations were sent to our families via our E-newsletter, Facebook, and Twitter, the event had reached capacity.
The SNN team immediately began to brainstorm for ways to remedy this and accommodate more families. We reached out to both current and new sponsors and community partners, and were able to put together Lunch with Santa, a second event on the same day.
Toys for both events were collected via various sponsors and community partners including AT&T, Toyota, Wal-Mart, CBS2/KCAL9, Aisha and Quincy Smith, CHiPs for Kids, Farmers’, Sister Spice Ministries, Senator Curren D. Price, Jr., Target, BDO, Family for Kids, InSearch Services, LAPD Training Office, KJLH, Mattel, Tara Innoye-Hill, The Launching Pad, and USC Office of the President. Special thanks also go out to Beta Gamma Nu, Pan-Americana Lodge #513, Southern California Edison, and the USC Joint Educational Project for helping make the events a success!
“We are so incredibly grateful to have the support of so many individuals and entities in this community effort at bringing Christmas to South L.A.’s less-fortunate residents,” said Martin, “and we can’t wait to do it again next year!”
More pictures from the events can be found on our Facebook page.