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Children turn in their toy guns for 'better' toys in Hempstead event

New York Toy Gun Exchange Program founder Jean

New York Toy Gun Exchange Program founder Jean Shafiroff, left, and Hempstead Police officer Sheryl Roberts, right, exchange a toy gun for a new toy with Honor Galloway at Brierley Park on Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2016 in Hempstead. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

Hempstead children on Wednesday traded their toy guns and pistols for footballs, dolls and games.

Hempstead village and town officials along with police joined a Hicksville native’s charity in a second annual toy gun exchange to deter kids from playing with toy guns that look like the real thing.

The program was started by Manhattan philanthropist Jean Shafiroff, who chose Hempstead for the second year in a program to deliver toys to local children.

Shafiroff said she chose Hempstead after a series of high profile shootings involving children. Her program is designed not to glorify toy guns to children.

“I wanted children to know toy guns are not good toys,” Shafiroff said. “By exchanging them for a much better gift, it shows a toy gun is not worth having.”

About 100 local kids gathered Wednesday afternoon at Brierley Park in Hempstead to trade in toy guns and accept new gifts. The toys were donated by Shafiroff through the Toys for Tots program, the Hempstead Heights Civic Association and the Hempstead Police PBA.

Hempstead Mayor Wayne Hall and Town Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby handed out toys, and both said the program could save Hempstead children’s lives.

“We don’t want them to play with guns and grow up with something else more serious,” Goosby said. “There are so many shootings in this village; they have to stop.”

Organizers said they hope to cut down on the risk of police mistaking a toy gun for a real one.

“We need to get away from that culture and give children appropriate toys. Hempstead is sending a message guns are not to be played with,” said Lamont Johnson with the Hempstead Heights Civic Association

Most of the toy guns handed in were brightly colored, though retailers like Amazon and Walmart have stopped selling toy guns that look too real, Shafiroff said.

Hempstead resident Keisha Daly, 30, brought her daughter to the exchange and said she appreciated the village teaching children not to play with toy guns.

“We need to protect our children. They think guns are cool, but I don’t think it’s cool at all,” Daly said. “That lifestyle isn’t what you should invest in. Hopefully, they realize toy guns are still dangerous.”

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