Latin music filled the air with festivity, children giggled and smiled in a long line that snaked around the room at L.C. Bird High School. They excitedly waited for the three kings to arrive at the “El Juguetazo” or “Three Kings Day” event last Saturday.
The volunteers were smiling too, as they busily readied the toys donated by businesses and caring individuals to be handed out. Three Kings Day is celebrated by many in the Hispanic communities in remembrance of the Three Wise Men who traveled to the nativity bearing gifts. The gifts at the event are given to children with economically challenged families.
“This is our twelfth year,” said Juan Santacoloma excitedly, multi-cultural liaison for Chesterfield County, “this year we will be serving about 2,000 children.”
The Richmond multi-cultural liaison also takes part in the event.
The first event was held in Harry G. Daniel’s Park for four years, and then it was moved to L.C. Bird High School, Santacoloma said.
According to Santacoloma the program doesn’t use any taxpayers’ dollars; all the gifts are strictly from donations from people with “huge and generous hearts.”
“We don’t give out any violent toys,” Santacoloma explained, “We don’t accept cash gifts, we ask for toys or gift cards.”
Volunteers wholeheartedly give of themselves.
Vanessa, 19 and Maria, 20 are daughters of Juan Santacoloma, who were on hand working hard dividing gifts into age categories and then assisting the kings with handing out the gifts. The daughters have volunteered with the program for all of its twelve years.
“When we started out,” Vanessa said her eyes sparkling and her face lit up with a broad smile, “volunteers would buy toys with their own money.”
To take part in the program Santacoloma says, “Just show up. To qualify you must be a child and have a big smile.”
Vanessa summed it up. “It’s like Christmas all over again, there are just no words to describe it.”
For more information contact Juan Santacoloma at 796-7085.