The annual toy giveaway and resource fair brings something for the whole community

Assemblymember Isaac G. Bryan got into multiple snow fights at the Christmas in the Park Celebration in Leimert Park. (Brian W. Carter/L.A. Sentinel)


On Sunday, Dec.17, Assemblymember Isaac G. Bryan (D-55th) held his third annual Christmas in the Park Celebration in Leimert Park. The community lined up and around the park to play in the snow, take pics with Santa Claus, and receive gifts and information.

“It fills me full of joy,” said Bryan about the event.

“I know I’ve talked to many folks in line already that this is something they look forward to — it’s something they need.

“It’s something that has taken a lot of pressure off of families that are struggling already and so that’s the job, right? That’s what service is — service to others is when we pay for our stay here o n earth and today, all of us here together are paying our earthly rent.”

Sponsors, partners, and organizations were a part of the festivities and shared plenty of information for the community. They included the Jenesse Center, Inc., Mother’s Nutritional Center, Crystal Stairs, Inc., Natural History Museum, and more.

From left are Areva Martin, Esq., founder and president of Special Needs Network; L.A. City Councilwoman Heather Hutt, and Assemblymember Isaac G. Bryan. (Brian W. Carter/L.A. Sentinel)

Special Needs Network was also there to share much-needed info and more. Award-winning civil rights attorney, civic leader, philanthropist, talk show host, and founder and president of Special Needs Network, Areva Martin, shared what events like this bring to the community.

“This is really important and special because this is our 17th year of doing a Christmas giveaway and we’ve done it in different locations around the county, always trying to go into neighborhoods where there is the greatest need to make sure we are spreading the love with lots of communities,” said Martin.

“So, today you can see by the lines that have been forming all morning and continue throughout the day that there’s a great need, so we’re just happy to be able to provide clothing, food, gifts, and all the things that we know families need during the holidays.”

The holiday event featured everything including a toy giveaway, a picture with Santa, food distribution, sledding in snow, a live DJ with holiday music, arts & crafts, childcare supplies, and more. In between speaking with families standing in line and snowball fights with kids, Bryan shared about the importance of this event to the community.

“Today is our third annual Christmas in the Park here in Leimert Park, and we’ve been doing it every year since I’ve been in office,” said Bryan.

“I know there’s a lot of need, a lot of gaps in the community, and we’re going to do our best to make sure that nobody has any of those needs unfilled this holiday season.”

A family takes a picture with Santa Claus. (Brian W. Carter/L.A. Sentinel)

Bryan added about an infamous snowball fight, “I did have a snowball fight with a 12-year-old.

“I lost but, I put up a good show.”

“Oh, it’s so necessary,” said 10th District Councilwoman Heather Hutt about Bryan’s Christmas in the Park Celebration. “They have food, they have resources, they have fun.

“We were able to blow more snow today so the kids can have fun. It’s important to do this in our community, and I appreciate his partnership with Special Needs Network because they’re Black and Brown kids in South Los Angeles that don’t get these kinds of resources like they get on the West side.

“And so, thank goodness for Areva Martin for understanding that.

“It’s a great partnership.”

“It takes a village to feed the village,” said Bryan about sponsors and partners that helped make this event happen. “If I could do this by myself, I would, but I can’t.

Kids sled in the snow. (Brian W. Carter/L.A. Sentinel)

“If you want to go far, you go together and so, we all came together.”

Families stood in line to take pictures with Santa, receive gifts and play in real snow. They shared how they felt about the holiday event in their neighborhood.

“It’s a lovely event, it’s good, the community is doing something for the kids,” said Curtis. “It’s a nice thing, the snow out here.

“It’s nice.”

“I think it’s a great event for the kids,” said Robin. “I didn’t know it’d be snow here.

“We’re from Michigan so it was definitely something they wanted to do. I’m happy to see the smiles on my kids face.

“It’s a lot of information, pertinent information to me, so I’m happy about the event.”

“I like the event and I’m glad that it was put on for the kids because a lot of people in this environment don’t really have enough to pay for gifts, especially when it’s a family, a big tribe, they don’t have a lot of money,” said an attendee.

“I love this event because this is a lot of gifts for my kids under the tree.”

Bryan and Martin shared what Christmas means to them and wished everyone and a happy holiday.

“Christmas to me is it just a time of tremendous spirit and togetherness,” said Bryan. “I have a big family, 12 brothers and sisters. It was that time where we could all, you know, put down any differences and come together with love.”

“Christmas is all about giving,” said Martin. “It’s all about those who’ve been blessed to have a lot to give that back because to whom much is given, much is expected.”

Martin continued, “This is the time of year that we get to say we are so grateful for everything we have and then share that with others.”