City natives give out 3,000 presents at Ice Arena.
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.Follow Long Beach Patch on Facebook.
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.Be a Follower. Explore and subscribe to Patch groups.
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
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