The Diamond Christmas Toy Giveaway started out as a modest venture seven years ago.
“I bought a jankie Santa suit on eBay for $50 bucks,” said Tito Rodriguez, one of the founders. “And we went out to communities in Long Beach and South Central L.A., visiting people in their homes and giving out gifts to underprivileged children.”
This year the toy giveaway moved to the Women’s and Children’s Clinic in Long Beach.
Co-founders H.J. Chong and Adrian Herrera estimated that more than 1,500 people formed a block-long queue down Atlantic Avenue for a chance to pick up a toy and sit on the lap of Rodriguez, who is known as the Hood Santa.
Rodriguez was given the moniker by a 7-year-old when the group visited a home on Junipero Avenue and 17th Street.
To understand the nickname, you must first learn of the organization’s history.
Diamond Supply, a skateboard and streetwear company, provided toys to Rodriguez, Chong and Herrera. The three visited families in their homes to pass out the gifts.
“Our first year we went to a home where the grandparents were raising eight kids,” Chong said. “Both parents were in prison. These children would have had a toyless Christmas. I saw that a simple Barbie doll could change a child’s self esteem. Seeing her face made my heart melt.”
It was their group’s second year when Rodriguez had that 7-year-old who gave him his nickname on his lap. The boy studied Rodriguez’ face: this Santa wasn’t white. His face looked like the people who lived in his neighborhood, Rodriguez said.
“You look like a Santa who lives around here,” the boy said. “You must be the Hood Santa.”
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