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Entrepreneurs band together to send 10,000 toys to Puerto Rico

Kevin Donnelly, of Lido Beach, used his business network to get the word out, collect donations and arrange for shipping.

From left, Jonathan Brill, Brad Caracciola, and Kevin

From left, Jonathan Brill, Brad Caracciola, and Kevin Donnelly, who organized a toy drive for Puerto Rico, at Brill's Amityville headquarters, Thursday, Dec 14, 2017. Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

A Long Island entrepreneur is trying his best to provide children in Puerto Rico with a little bit of joy over the holidays.

Kevin Donnelly, 48, of Lido Beach, has set a goal to collect 10,000 toys to be delivered on the day of Los Reyes Magos, or Three King’s Day, which is a major holiday in Puerto Rico, celebrated Jan. 6.

Donnelly was inspired to help after learning that many children were still living in shelters months after Hurricane Maria. He turned to his network of other Long Island entrepreneurs and business owners for help.

First, he asked everyone in the Long Island chapter of the Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO), a global peer networking group of which he is a member, to bring a toy donation to the group’s Christmas party.

“When I started, the first couple days it was just a local thing,” Donnelly said, but soon other YPO chapters across the country and another group, Entrepreneurs’ Organization, also started collecting toys.

Working primarily with two other Long Island members of YPO, Jonathan Brill and Brad Caracciola, Donnelly called the mission Operation Toy Story and launched a Facebook page, website and Amazon gift registry. From Amazon, people can purchase toys and send them directly to Operation Toy Story’s shipping headquarters in Jacksonville, Florida, where a company called Cool Transport Jax will handle shipping to Puerto Rico.

“I just kind of made a number up, and said we’re shooting for 10,000 gifts,” Donnelly said. The group is about halfway to its goal overall, he estimated this week.

About 500 gifts were collected on Long Island, said Brill, president at Infinity Drain, a drain manufacturer.

“Personally, this time of year, it’s better to give than to receive,” said Brill, 45, of Cold Spring Harbor. “To me, this is the ultimate gift.”

On Wednesday, Caracciola’s company, Ground Force Logistics, provided freight transportation to get the New York donations to Jacksonville. The packing boxes had red and green bows tacked on for a touch of Christmas spirit, Donnelly said.

Anyone who wants to donate can still do so if they ship directly to Jacksonville and the shipment arrives by Dec. 24. The address is available at OperationToyStory.com.

The gifts will be sent to Puerto Rico by boat starting Dec. 20, with another shipment going out a week later, Donnelly said.

Once in Puerto Rico, the gifts will be distributed by staff at Gersh Academy, a school for children on the autism spectrum, Donnelly said. Gersh Academy was founded by Kevin Gersh, whom Donnelly knows through YPO, and has two locations on Long Island and one in Puerto Rico.

Donnelly is still hopeful they can reach 10,000 toys. He said any late donations will still be sent to Puerto Rico.

“We still have a couple days to go and stuff is coming in heavy,” he said.

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