More than 100 kids and families attended the 500 Men Christmas Tree Lighting and Toy Drive at Herbert Von King Park in Bedford-Stuyvesant on Dec. 8.
Guests attending the fourth annual drive, also got to meet hip-hop artist Young M.A, who was the highlight of the day for many older kids, said one local mom.
“My daughter didn’t want to take any toys and she was happy to see Young M.A, and my son got to take a picture with her,” said Starrett City mom, Nefertiti Leach.
Leach said she stayed at the two-hour event for its entirety and kept warm with hot chocolate that organizers served.
She adds not only was she pleased with the atmosphere and Christmas spirit of the event, she enjoyed listening to the artist talk about creating Kweens — her newly formed foundation for the families who lost loved ones to violence.
“It was a great kick off for my holiday. I loved it because it’s a great thing for the community to see,” she said. “And one thing that really hit home about Young M.A was when she talked about losing her brother and her mother losing a son — it was really profound.”
Guests were enthusiastic about the recording artist’s presence, said the group’s publicist.
“This was first time we had a celebrity come through to the drive, and they loved her,” said Sharon Devonish Leid of 500 Men.
Leach also said that each child received one toy, and her 11-year-old son was thrilled to get the bicycle that he was most eager about.
“He was ecstatic about getting the bike, especially because he didn’t think that he would get it,” said Leach.
Since the community-oriented organization began the drive, it continues to draw larger crowds annually.
“Every year it gets bigger and bigger, and the kids get really excited about getting new toys,” said Devonish Leid. “We wanted to bring back community engagement to the community because it shows camaraderie in the community. This year Young M.A was the nice twist that got everyone excited.”