The Great Venice Toy Drive Holiday Festival was held on December 19, 2015. After collecting toys for over a month at local businesses throughout Venice, The Great Venice Toy Drive, a project of the Venice Neighborhood Council (VNC), Vera Davis McClendon Youth and Family Center (Vera Davis), and the City of Los Angeles, ended in its annual holiday festival on December 19, 2015 at Oakwood Recreation Center where toys were distributed to over 580 children. At the festival, kids were able to engage in arts & crafts, have their face painted, receive a free photo with Santa, obtain their caricature, or play in a moon bounce or in the snow. Free books from the Friends of the Venice Library were distributed as well as free toothbrushes, toothpaste and floss courtesy of the Wilson-Jennings-Bloomfield UCLA Venice Dental Center. Seven bicycles donated by Carl Lambert, Glen Irani Architects, Superseed Content, and other anonymous donors, were raffled off to kids as well as a tablet donated by John Reed of Reed Architectural Group, Inc. Star Wars tickets were also given away. Flash drives, courtesy of Iron Eye, were distributed to assist children in transferring their homework assignments between computer labs. Safety LED lights were also provided to attach to kids’ bikes, backpacks, or strollers. Throughout the event, families enjoyed lunch provided by Whole Foods Venice, Pitfire Artisan Pizza, the Gjelina Volunteer Program, Salt & Straw, Superba Food & Bread, Big Daddy’s Pizza, and community member Oscar Hermosillo.
The VNC created the event in response to community concerns about the lack of a toy giveaway in the Venice area and is organized by a committee including Mariana Aguilar, Nick Antonicello, Daryl Barnett, and Marisa Solomon-Reed. Aguilar said: “Each year the event gets a little bit bigger and a litter bit better making this year our biggest and best year yet. With sponsors such as Assemblymember Autumn Burke, Ron’s Thursday Night Soccer Club and so many of our other neighbors, the VNC and Vera Davis not only provided each child with a toy, but also created an incredibly special day for the community to celebrate the holidays together at our local park. Oakwood and Vera Davis staff once again outdid themselves with their creativity, work ethic, and community spirit to make this event happen.”
In addition to the many volunteers, organizers of The Great Venice Toy Drive & Holiday Festival wish to thank the following persons and entities for their contribution to the event: Abbot’s Habit, Terry Ballentine, Blue Star Donuts, Dan Abrams, Arctic Glacier, Assemblymember Autumn Burke, Betty Mae Casting, Big Daddy’s Pizza, Big Lots, CaliSons, City of Los Angeles, Councilman Mike Bonin, Celeste Chada & Scot Kramarich, the Flinders, George Francisco, Friends of the Venice Library, Valentine Garcia, Gjelina Volunteer Program, Google, Groundwork Coffee Co., Headspace, Paul Hibler, HUZZAH!, Iron Eye, Matt Kline, Carl Lambert, Le Cellier Wine Bar & Restaurant, Loboman, Linda Lucks, Maison International, Eduardo Manilla, Jim Murez, Oakwood Seniors Club, Oscar’s Cerveteca, Oscar Hermosillo, Pardee Properties, Pitfire Artisan Pizza. Ron’s Thursday Night Soccer Club, Shawn’s Pumpkin Patch, John Reed, Re/MAX Estate Properties, Reed Architectural Group, Inc., REthink Development, Carolyn Rios, Salt & Straw, Colleen Saro and Steven Eustace, Senator Ben Allen, Ivan Spiegel, Michael “Rocky” Stenger, Superseed Content, Superba Food & Bread, The Ave!, Venice Art Crawl, Venice Chamber of Commerce, Venice Farmers’ Market, Venice Neighborhood Council, Huy Vu, Whole Foods Venice, Wilson-Jennings-Bloomfield UCLA Venice Dental Center, Zambezi Ink, and ZEFR.