More than one thousand boys and girls received toys and other gifts last Saturday, Dec. 14 at the Variety Boys and Girls Club’s 64th annual Family Holiday and Toy Giveaway event in Boyle Heights.
The youth, ages 6 to 17 and all from needy families, received free school supplies, toys, balls and pies, and 41 extra special and lucky youth took home a brand new bike.
The program is so popular, some participants started lining up outside the Boyle Heights institution three days before the event, which was briefly interrupted for a special ribbon-cutting ceremony to commemorate the opening of the club’s new Gary E. Milgard Foundation Aquatic Facility.
“The investment by the Gary E. Milgard Foundation will impact the health and increase the physical activities of our members in a community that is working to reduce the higher-than-county averages of obesity in youth and adults,” said Cris Arzate, Variety Boys and Girls Club executive director.
The ceremony ended with a bidding war between a number of volunteers – namely Dr. Diane Araujo – who offered the winning bid to “christen” the pool by having Jay Swerdlow, Variety Boys and Girls Club board chairman, jump into the 40-degree water in their new pool.
Variety Club members are very excited about the latest addition to their facility, which they said will offer hundreds of youth who go to the club, along with a variety of partners including early childhood programs, children with disabilities and seniors the opportunity to learn how to swim, enjoy physical therapy, enter competitive swimming opportunities, or just have fun during the year in a neighborhood with few public pools.
Families and volunteers were treated to food and refreshments at a street carnival held in front of the club on Cincinnati Street and sponsored by the Brent Shapiro Foundation, another of the club’s partners. The foundation rewards middle and high school aged youth who stay sober and go to college. Famed attorney and one of the founders of LegalZoom.com, Inc., Robert Shapiro, his wife Linell and son Grant established the foundation in honor of their son and brother, Brent, who died from an overdose. The foundation’s goal is to educate and incentivize youth to learn about the disease of alcohol and drug dependence and its dangerous consequences.
The Brent Shapiro Foundation teamed up with the Variety Boys & Girls Club staff to organize the street carnival for the 75 Brents Club members. The club members were also given toys by the boys and girls club.
People living near the club on Cincinnati Street were also invited to attend the carnival as guests of Variety and the Brent Shapiro Foundation. The carnival attractions included food, ice cream and shaved ice trucks, a 3-story Ferris wheel, game booths, picture booth, and free toys.
For more information, visit www.vbgc.org.