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Gary’s ‘Toys for Kids Santa Forgot’ event returns

DevBrewer 6 Julene Anderspick out toys The Genesis Center December 28 2013. | Jim Karczewski\For Sun-Times Media

Devin Brewer, 6 and Julene Anderson pick out toys at The Genesis Center on December 28, 2013. | Jim Karczewski\For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 30, 2014 6:55AM



GARY— Rudy Clay Jr. ran around the Genesis Center early Saturday afternoon, amazed he’d pulled off the 11th “Toys for Kids Santa Claus Forgot” extravaganza his father, the late Rudy Clay Sr., hosted.

With a giant poster of the former Gary mayor smiling down upon the event, Clay knew his father was pleased the tradition was resurrected after the family took a year off to deal with the elder Clay’s illness last year. Still, with at least 600 kids coming through the doors, the younger Clay stood amazed that his father undertook the endeavor.

But after observing the looks on the kids’ faces, he understood why his dad did it.

“People don’t realize how many kids are misfortunate, and this was what my dad saw,” Clay said. “This is where his heart was, and I’m glad to have been able to keep his legacy alive.

“I’d still rather have my dad here, though. He knew how to do it right.”

The Clays hadn’t really thought about putting on the event again until Jamal Washington, senior contract manager for Gary Community School Corp. transportation provider Illinois Central Bus Co., approached him with the idea three weeks ago. Washington wanted to have a toy drive anyway, so combining resources with Clay seemed like the way to go.

“It was a madhouse the first hour; we had people lined up at the door at 7 a.m.,” Washington said. “I’m glad we did it, though, because at least now, many more kids got to have a Christmas.”

The Rev. Edward Sims Jr., pastor of Victory Life Christian Church and sponsor for Toys for Tots in the city, donated much of his leftover stock from this year’s event, as he has for several years, while monetary donations covered the 200 bikes that were there for the taking.

First Ward Council Ron Brewer was stunned to see bikes still left when he arrived, but that didn’t last long. He attributed that to the children’s shrewdness.

“If the kids wanted a bike, that was all they got,” Brewer said. “I guess there were kids who wanted more presents.”

Aaliyah, Ashanti and Michelle Martin, and Serenity Miller, fell in the latter group. The girls proudly toted around Barbie dolls and kits filled with princess accessories.

“This was very helpful,” said the girls’ mom, Jacquise Ross. “It’s very nice that they wanted to do this for the kids.”

Unlike the Toys for Tots event, the only requirement for families to participate in the event was that kids had to be accompanied by parents and adults had to be acccompanied by kids, the Rev. Sims said.



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