Nothing brings more joy to a child then unwrapping of brand new gift on Christmas, Kwanzaa or Hanukkah. It’s a memory that few forget.
“Growing up as a kid, my parents bought me tons of toys and Hanukah was the greatest holiday ever with a lot of presents,” said Melissa Doktofsky, the founder of the charity Toys of Hope. “I was the kid that gave away my toys. I would get such pleasure out of telling them they could have it. Fast-forward to now, I’ve dedicated my life to doing this. It’s been an absolute blessing.”
Doktofsky volunteered with various charities. She then thought, why not just start my own. She did just that and she wanted to reach the masses. She did that too.
“This thing just blew up because people loved what I was doing,” said Doktofsky. “The local community, the police, the fire departments, all the businesses, senators and judges were blown away with what I was doing and got behind me.”
Not only do they give out toys but they also distribute clothes, appliances and other household items.
This year, the organization celebrated its 25th Annual Toys Of Hope Children’s event. They hosted around 500 children between the ages of three to five and treated them to a day off from school, a dance party with fictional characters, food and bags filled with toys, clothes and other useful items delivered by Santa himself.
Other characters included the popular Peppa Pig, Spiderman and a whole Star Wars ensemble.
Tina Alfano is a domestic violence survivor and turned around to become a counselor national child advocate. Through her work, she came across Toys of Hope and is now the Vice President of the organization. She said with a toy comes not only joy but a sense of pride as well.
“It gives you a sense of ownership of something,” said Alfano. “You know your parents own the house and the car, but what do you own as a kid, nothing but your toy. Then you can share your toy. It gives you a sense of happiness.”
All the toys and items given out to recipients are brand new. All the money the charity receives goes towards buying these items for families in need.
“A lot of people once they come here and they experience the children and see them smile and laugh they’re with us for the rest of their lives,” said Alfano.
A prime example of this is Jordy Castillo, who joined the organization at 12 as a member of the junior executive board. At 25, he now sits on the executive board and has learned about the beauty of giving back with Toys of Hope.
“When I was younger, there was always that anticipation of what I was going to get and when you open up the first present, you just glow inside,” said Castillo. “That same feeling that I got is what we do here today. The best part about it is giving the kids that Christmas morning experience.”
The charity also hosts Three Kings Day and Kwanzaa. The all-year-round organization has several programs including Adopt a Family, Poor Paws and are First Responders, aiding people during natural disasters such as Hurricane Sandy, 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. They also help 75 other major organizations as toy suppliers.
This annual event has been made possible for 25 years thanks to sponsors, donations and a partnership with the Pat Covelli Foundation. Doktofsky said it’s not always easy to pull off these feats throughout the year. She asks that if anyone can spare money to make a donation it can make all the difference in a family’s life.
“It’s such a struggle to raise money,” said Doktofsky. We’re a little low on money this year. I’m hoping there’s a last-minute Christmas miracle and people get on toysofhope.org and start donating because it’s scary. Any amount is good. It all adds up.”
You can donate money or supplies to the organization here.