FORT LAUDERDALE — Four-year-old Denise King, after taking a photo with Santa, said she would “try and wait for Christmas” to open her new toys.
Brian Bailey, 3, whispered his wish list into Santa’s ear. Later, refusing to share the details, he said, “I can’t tell you, but the toys are good ones.”
Denise and Brian joined 67 other children up to age 9 who received free toys from employees at the Broward State Attorney’s Office on Dec. 17.
HANDY, which stands for Helping Abused Neglected Disadvantaged Youth, is a non-profit organization founded in 1985 to meet the fundamental needs of Broward County’s foster-care children. The facility is in the Lillian S. Wells Center, 501 NE 8 St. in Fort Lauderdale.
The event last week marked the second year that the State Attorney’s Office has given away holiday toys to children at HANDY. The prosecutors’ office also provided food and a volunteer Santa.
Arlene Ratner, HANDY’s executive director, said it was "wonderful to see the delighted faces of almost 70 little kids when they visited with Santa and received presents from State Attorney Mike Satz and his staff. This joy was compounded knowing that these children might otherwise not have anything at the holidays.”
Staff members in the State Attorney’s Office earlier had received a list with the children’s names, ages and the toys the children desired for Christmas, according to Kristi Irizarry, a legal secretary in the State Attorney’s Office.
“We have done this for 10 years overall,” Irizarry said. “We try and seek out the neediest organizations, and HANDY is just a great match. It was an inner-office drive. And it was really something to see the excitement people shared taking hold of the project and coming back with such great toys.”
Each child received a shopping bag filled with five wrapped toys from his or her list. The children said they would wait until Christmas to open the gifts.
There were also toy donations from the Democratic Club of Broward, Irizarry said.
“It’s all about the babies and Christmas,” Kirk Brown, HANDY’s director of programs said, adding that it “feels good to see the kids and their parents witness the warm and fuzzy side of the law and to know that people really care about them.”
Karen Smith, Denise’s mother, described the toys as “amazing,” adding that she is “grateful that there are still programs left that can help. The gifts really helped with my shopping.”
Leacroft Bailey, Brian’s father, who has participated in HANDY’s program for two years, said the toys Brian received were more than enough to make a happy Christmas.
“It’s great that my son not only received five toys, but five toys that he really wants,” Bailey said.
Carter Hillstrom, a felony prosecutor who volunteered to play Santa for the second year, said that the “kids are great, and that is what all this is about.”