Over 500 Families Get Toys & Clothing at Holiday Event
By Runa Lemminn
You could see the excitement on the faces of hundreds of children as they waited impatiently with their families for the 2nd annual FIELD Toy & Clothing Giveaway to begin. The line at FIELD headquarters on Union Ave. started early, with families lining up before noon for the 3 pm event, and stretched back across the property for hours.
Santa and his elves were on hand to help light up the holidays and give away over 1,200 toys and stuffed animals. FIELD CEO David Villarino had a huge grin on his face as he welcomed everyone individually, chatting with each family as they waited to get inside. With holiday music playing, and concert tickets and prizes getting raffled off, Radio Lobo, 102.3 FM, created a festive atmosphere with a DJ and danceathons to keep families entertained.
Several local charities and organizations teamed up with FIELD this year for their 2023 toy giveaway, contributing to the spirit of the holidays and community: the Kiwanis, Toys for Tots, Radio Lobo, and Celebration Nation.
People came from far and wide to celebrate and pick up free toys, food boxes and some cold weather gear. And of course, get their photo taken with Santa. There were students and folks who were participating in FIELD’s work training programs, while others were discovering it for the first time.
Student Mayra Astorga was there with her family and a friend, Maria Torres. “I’m graduating in June,” said Astorga. “I’m going to go to college, I want to be a dental hygienist.” Torres said that after Astorga finally convinced her, she was going to an orientation in January with a goal of graduating with her GED and getting a good job.
People who were new to FIELD heard about the event on the local news. Danitsi Montoya, who was there with her young son, said it was her first time at the facility. “I live close by, and have passed the FIELD building many times, but never knew what it was before.” Now she’s interested in FIELD’s adult school and asked for additional information.
As the children passed through the gates, their eyes lit up when they saw the gifts, Santa, and the pan dulces and hot chocolate. There were surprises for the children, too – a snow machine, courtesy of Flor Martinez and Celebration Nation, gave it a delightful holiday feel. “It’s the perfect time for collaboration,” said Martinez as she watched the children playing in the snow flurries.
It took quite a bit of collaboration. “We had 1,000 toys and 200 stuffed animals,” said Darlene Daughty, the local coordinator for Toys for Tots. Daughty’s husband was Santa for the event.
Daisy Ortiz, General Manager of Radio Lobo was happy to help as one of the co-sponsors. “There’s so much need in our community for this kind of support,” she said. The other co-sponsors agreed. “It’s important that these events happen for community engagement,” said Martinez.
As the event wound down, the sense of community was palpable as families sat in groups in the parking lot, enjoying each other’s company and not wanting to leave. Looking around at all the supportive organizations and happy faces, Villarino said “It takes a lot of organizing, but it’s well worth it, and I want to thank the community at large for all their support.”
For more photos from the event, click here.