Davonte Johnson, 7, opened up his big red bag of toys in the middle of a crowded aisle at Matty’s Toy Stop in Hewlett. With a gaptoothed grin, he pulled out a remote-control helicopter, his favorite Christmas find.
“I like helicopters,” Davonte said. “And this one, this one can really fly!”
Davonte was among the 110 children and their families who were invited to participate in Matty's first-ever holiday toy shopping spree, a joint effort conceived by participating members of the Nassau County's police unions, the NCPD Foundation and the toy shop.
On Christmas Eve, each participating family received a $110 gift certificate and a large red bag to fill with whatever they wanted up to that price from Matty’s Toy Stop. At noon, children and their families swept the store, poring over action figures, dolls and other holiday gifts.
“Considering the economic climate of today, kids need more help than ever,” said Nassau PBA President James Carver. “Now these kids today can have something to put underneath the Christmas tree, too.”
The families who were chosen all receive help from the Nassau County Social Services Department, and many live in public housing or shelters across Nassau County.
Davonte’s older sister Dana Thomas, 24, said the family has been living at the Bethany House homeless shelter in Baldwin for the past several months.
“It’s been a rough couple of months for us,” Thomas said. “We were going to go without Christmas this year, and I told him [Davonte] that. But now we can have some holidays.”
For Matty’s Toy Stop, owned by James and Matty McQuade of Franklin Square, giving back during the holiday season is a regular event. Earlier this month, the company partnered with the Floral Park-based Hands Foundation and the FDNY's Siller Foundation to distribute $14,000 worth of toys to kids in need.
“When the holiday season comes around, it really makes you appreciative of what you have and makes you think about helping others,” Sean McQuade, son of James and Matty McQuade and vice president of Matty’s Toys, said. “We’re a local business, and we want to support local, too.”
“This event, it’s bringing tears to my eyes,” Matty McQuade said, adding that this was the first time the store has ever hosted a donation event on site. “To actually see it, where everything is going and how happy the kids look is amazing.”
The shopping spree totaled $11,000 in donated merchandise. Santa, played by a retired Nassau County police officer, also made an appearance at the event.
Crouched down in one of the aisles, Danielle Oehme helped her daughter Emily, 3, pull a Disney princess doll off a lower shelf. Emily giggled as she waved the doll in her hands and her mother put the doll into their red bag.
“I don’t even have words,” Oehme said, adding that she had resubmitted for help with housing just a few days before.
She paused for a moment.
“I can help give my daughter Christmas this year.”