Presenting his new game to his mother, Destrehan’s Daniel Donahoe was among nearly 700 children who beat Saturday’s winter weather to attend the St. Charles Parish Toy and Gift Fund.
“It was wonderful,” said his mother Tina Donahoe. “To have a community just open up and care about their people like that is a blessing.”
This was the Donahoes’ first time at the toy giveaway and a much appreciated one for the family this year. The eight-year-old was invited to be a part of the program by his school, New Sarpy Elementary.
“My son was so excited,” she said.
Daniel had his choice of an estimated 2,000 toys stacked ceiling high at the Edward A. Dufresne Community Center in Luling. When he returned with the Pictionary game, his mother was a bit surprised but then, again, she decided it fit his love for drawing.
“I just like the spirit of being part of a community like that,” Donahoe said.
As for Daniel, he also enjoyed his hotdog and liked getting to see Santa Claus, as well as his new toy.
Also of Destrehan, Korey Eugene brought his nephew, Dekhyri Turley, to the event and it also was their first time there.
When the six-year-old had his chance to choose a toy, he returned with a fire truck.
“He wanted to open it as soon as he got it, but we told him he had to wait until Christmas,” Eugene said. “He was pretty upset, but he’s looking forward to it.”
Overall, Eugene said they had a wonderful experience with the gift giving, games and great food.
“I really love what you guys are doing with helping the community and I hope it continues,” he said.
They attended the parish’s 32nd giveaway Saturday morning despite unusually freezing conditions.
Michelle Higgins, director of the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP), estimated they served about 680 children at the event and have since served more of them, bringing the total closer to 1,000. Some 1,300 children, in grades 1 to 12, and their siblings were invited to the gathering.
Higgins said the program is not open to the public. Children are chosen to participate at their schools.
RSVP, which runs the Toy and Gift Fund, continued with the event even as it snowed in the parish on Friday and left many roads and bridges closed.
The weather made Santa late, but he still had a great time greeting everyone and taking photos with the children.
Every child gets a toy and a book to encourage reading and literacy, Higgins said.
She also praised sponsors including United Way of St. Charles, Valero and the Times Picayune, as well as nearly 200 volunteers for helping make the event possible. This included RSVP volunteers, and other school groups and community organization volunteers, and assistance from the parish’s Public Works and Parks and Recreation departments.
Valero cooks and serves the food, including the pastalaya.
“Despite the weather, the Toys and Gift Fund went on and it was a huge success,” Higgins said. “This year’s event was a great success despite our winter weather.”