The line stretches around the block as hundreds of Newark families wait outside on an unseasonably warm December day with their kids, for early holiday presents. Newark Mayor Ras Baraka makes small talk with residents and looks over piles of toys organized by the appropriate age group.
What were some of the toys a young Ras Baraka desired as a kid?
“I loved those chemistry sets, bikes, skateboards, or a football uniform. Pittsburgh Steelers, football uniform, Lynn Swann.”
Baraka along with several dozen volunteers greet families with gifts ranging from action figures, dolls, coloring books, to board games.
“There are a lot of people in this area that need support. We’re trying to do what we can to make that happen. You’ll see by the crowd, a diverse crowd. Once they hear that you are able to take care of their family, they are going to come out.”
Toys were donated for this holiday event over the course of two New Jersey Devils home games at the Prudential Center.
“Since the New Jersey Devils moved to Newark ten years ago, the philosophy has always been to give back to the community,” said Jim Leonard, NJ Devils and Prudential Center Senior Vice President. “Whether it’s a toy drive, a blood drive, the food drive that we have, we believe strongly in making sure that we provide benefit back to the community. The community that does so much for us.”
The NJ Devil Mascot high fives excited kids as they make their way to tables and collect toys. The adults, parents and relatives, are pretty enthusiastic.
“This is a motorsports car for the kids and a small sewing machine. This is something that Newark does every year,” said Thomas of Newark. “I’m glad that they are doing it. The kids need to know that they are still loved, you know?”
Nearly 6,000 happy children left the John F. Kennedy Recreation Center in the city’s Central Ward with an unexpected new holiday present.