The U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots local drive organized by Councilman Lew Fidler’s 41st Assembly District Democratic Club is again the largest such drive in New York City for the eighth consecutive year, scoring 7,750 holiday gifts for needy and disadvantaged children.
While the number is impressive, an even more impressive number came out of it: 55,430. That’s the number of toys collected in the 13 years since the drive’s establishment in 2001, when they first bundled together just 79 toys for kids.
The event will continue in the future, but it’s the final year that Fidler will preside over it as a member of the City Council. He’s term limited out come January 1, to be succeeded by Assemblyman Alan Maisel. As the event wrapped up, Fidler gazed over the mountain of toys that covered nearly half the floor space of his club from floor to ceiling.
“This is what the holidays are supposed to be about. Not throwing yourself a party, not drinking a lot of egg nog. Helping children, that’s what we do. It’s great to look at this mountain of toys,” he told Sheepshead Bites. “Today was my last Council meeting. Yeah, it’s bittersweet, but at the end you look back and you know you had a good run, you didn’t waste anyone’s time, and I didn’t waste my time, and it’s very gratifying.”
The event brought together more than a hundred neighbors with political figures from around the city. Besides Fidler and Maisel, Councilmembers Jumaane Williams, Michael Nelson and David Greenfield attended, as did Councilmen-elect Chaim Deutsch and Mark Treyger and Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein. Borough President-elect Eric Adams spoke to the crowd, and Brooklyn Democratic boss Frank Seddio showed up, just in time to receive an enthusiastic embrace from Melissa Mark-Viverito, who earlier in the day released a statement declaring victory in the race for City Council speaker, the second most powerful office in New York City.
More importantly, Coney Island Cyclones’ Sandy the Seagull and the Mets’ Mr. Met entertained the dozens of kids at the event, including the elves who helped put the event together and who dazzled attendees with the annual “Elf show,” a parade of kids carrying signs touting each year’s collection results.
“We started this Toy Drive in 2001 by collecting 79 toys. Never in our wildest imagination did we ever think we’d collect a total of 55,430 toys over 13 years. We thank every single sponsor, every single person, every single friend over all those 13 years who has helped us achieve this,” wrote Bryan Lee, who organizes the event on the club’s behalf, in a thank you note to supporters. “When so many people pool together so many acts of kindness there are no limits to what can be achieved; we’re honored so many of you have always chosen us to act as a mere conduit for these means.”
The event was aided by several feeder drives across Southern Brooklyn, including an interfaith teen drive by the Kings Bay YM-YHCA and the Be Proud Foundation in Sheepshead Bay. Both drives steered hundreds of gifts into the club’s collection pile.
Here’s that elf show:
Check out these photos from club’s grand finale on Thursday night:
And some photos from the Kings Bay Y and Be Proud Foundation events: