In a ballroom filled with red, green and gold balloons, more than 300 Nassau foster children were treated to a holiday celebration held in their honor Thursday in Uniondale.
For the past 35 years the county's Department of Social Services and local volunteers have organized the holiday party for hundreds of children seeking adoption. About 320 Nassau children are in foster care, according to county figures.
"Today we honor these children," said Lynne Campbell, director of volunteer services for the department.
Campbell said more than 20 schools and dozens of other community service groups helped collect more than 400 toys to distribute to the children at the Long Island Marriott Hotel and Conference Center.
Karen Garber, spokeswoman for the department, said the event is also an opportunity to spotlight local children seeking homes.
"Hopefully it brings to light that there are children here in need of a family," Garber said.
Danielle Cassar, 18, who was adopted two years ago, said returning to the event allowed her to reconnect with her "family" of foster children and the social workers who helped her get adopted.
"Adopting is the best thing you could do for someone," Cassar said. "Giving that comfort to someone who needs it is really great."
Marjorie Chin, 46, of Freeport, attended the event with three sisters she is in the process of adopting, calling them her "biggest gift."
"There are so many children who need us to teach them the value of things like a good heart," Chin said. "I am fortunate to be able to do this."
Nassau Social Services Commissioner John Imhof told the children and foster parents the party was welcome following weeks of families dealing with the aftermath of superstorm Sandy.
Imhof said: "All of us coming together shows the strength of the human spirit and the importance of family love."