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Toy Drive Lets Long Beach Forget Sandy

City natives give out 3,000 presents at Ice Arena.

Three-year-old Gabby Miller poses with superheroes at the holiday toy drive event.
Three-year-old Gabby Miller poses with superheroes at the holiday toy drive event.
For some Long Beach residents, the event was a welcomed diversion from the devastating impact of Hurricane Sandy that ravaged the city two days before Halloween.

“It is good for the community; we needed something to lift people’s spirits, instead of thinking about what happened,” said parent Orlando Ramos Sr. about the Long Beach Holiday Toy Drive at the Ice Arena on Saturday.

What started as simple idea by Gabby Orellana and Vanneza Cardona,
 two twenty-something Long Beach natives two started the drive to help fellow residents, turned into a successful event the drew about 1,000 children and 300 volunteers. The two women started the toy drive.

At the event, children and their families were able to meet Santa, take part in art project and pick out presents, from stuffed animals to board games to dolls.
“We collected over 3,000 toys for the kids and it is so exciting to see the event come to life,” said Cardona, the event director.

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The Long Beach Foundation — an ad hoc organization that leverages the network and administration capabilities of local grassroots groups and charities — assisted the toy drive by handling volunteer coordination, securing sponsorships and dealing with corporate outreach. Long Island Bagel Café, which has several locations across Long Island, prepared the food for the event, and Federal Emergency Management Agency officials were on hand to answer any questions residents may still have about storm recovery.

Some children arrived at the ice arena not only to receive presents, but also to volunteer with their parents. Hannah Ramirez, a first-grader at Lindell School, volunteered even though her house was damaged during the storm.

“I came here to help kids get toys,” she said.

Long Beach resident Tammy Morgan has continuously volunteered in the city since the storm and wanted to help in any way possible at the toy drive.

“The back wall of my apartment building blew in from the ocean during Hurricane Sandy,” she said. “My neighbor’s children were traumatized because of what happened, so this event is great for them.”

City employees, including members of the Long Beach Fire Department, assisted as event organizers. Joseph O’Connor, a lifelong city resident who works at the Recreation Center in the winter and at the beach during summer, helped transport toys from a warehouse in Island Park to the arena.

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East End resident Stacey Ebert volunteered as an event coordinator.

“It is very uplifting in that you are touching people’s lives and making kids smile, especially with the wake of the news of the last few days,” she said.

One mother with four children suggested that divine intervention was involved in the toy drive.

“Between Christmas and birthdays, this event is a blessing in every way,” she said


Jo-Anne December 18, 2012 at 07:27 AM
i called saturday morning at the ice arena/rec center because i had a trunk full of toys to donate and wanted to know where to bring them. i was told that i could not drop off the toys there and that i was mistaken; there was no toy drive there.. is there anywhere else in long beach that is collecting toys for kids this week? i can drop them off today.
MeByTheSea December 18, 2012 at 07:32 AM
I also have many brand new toys and gift items to donate but have no idea where to take them. Wish I had known about the toy drive. Does anyone know if there will be another one?
Sister "D" December 19, 2012 at 10:44 AM
The Knights of Columbus was supposed to have a children's Christmas party this Sunday, the 23rd. I believe they were trying to find a new venue for the party since the Knights burned. Is there anyone with more information? I too have toys to donate.
Jo-Anne December 19, 2012 at 02:19 PM
i just came from st. mary's parish hall on park avenue where they were setting up for toy drive and dropped off my donations. hope this helps....(wednesday afternoon)

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