GARY │ Hundreds of local children didn’t care what the calendar said Saturday because for them it was Christmas.
For more than a decade, the late Gary Mayor Rudy Clay hosted his annual Toys for Kids that Santa Claus Forgot (But God Remembered) giveaway at the Genesis Convention Center. Needy families in Gary and surrounding communities received toys, bikes and clothing.
Last year the event wasn’t held while Clay, who died in June, was battling cancer.
This year the holiday giving program returned as a joint venture among event organizer Jamal Washington, of the Indiana Central School Bus Co., Rudy Clay Jr., Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, Majestic Star Casino, Pastor Edward Sims, Lake County Commissioner Roosevelt Allen and Calumet Township Trustee Mary Elgin.
Clay said Washington called him to get the program going again.
“I knew I had to do it," said the former mayor's son.
“It’s all about love,” Clay said. “Love of my dad and keeping his legacy alive, and love and joy for kids who are less fortunate. Countless people help put it together. I’m really humbled by their donations and caring for the kids.”
Washington said the program served at least 400 to 500 families in the first hour.
“It’s about serving the underprivileged kids that maybe didn’t get something for Christmas,” he said.
Freeman-Wilson said she was honored to keep Mayor Clay’s legacy alive.
“This is really a display of love,” she said. “Not only love for the people, but love for a mayor who loved so many people and did this every year and did it for the community.”
Australia Lewis, of Gary, brought her 8-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter to the program.
“They got great things,” she said. “They’re giving out great toys. It’s wonderful. Everybody is nice and this is a blessing.”
Shaneka Canady, of Gary, brought her son, KeIran Canady, 6, and niece, Javae Canady, 8. She said the program was a great way to support the community.
KeIran got a basketball and train set.
“I got Barbie dolls and a princess hat,” Javae said.