Hillsborough County, Fla. (CW44 News at 10) – Thousands of students in distressed communities across Hillsborough County will walk away with at least one Christmas gift this week.
“I don’t care what age the kid is, they love stuffed animals,” said Bonnie James who serves as a Parent Liaison for Robles Elementary School in Hillsborough County. She is also the CEO of Kingdom Kids of Tampa Bay and has been collecting donations for students in high needs communities for over 50 years.READ MORE: 98 Children Drowned In 2021, Local Swim Instructors Encourage Swim Lessons For Babies
“Legos, that’s popular. If we don’t have enough footballs and basketballs to go around, we give the boys a watch, a stuffed animal. They’re happy,” said James. For the last 25, she’s been working with local school security officers during Christmas time.
“181 days out of the year we’re worried about schools safety, campus safety but, you know, this is the week before Christmas break and we love giving back,” said Chief John Newman who oversees the Hillsborough County Schools Security and Emergency Management Division.
Over time, the initiative grew. This year, his squad shopped for $5,000 worth of Christmas gifts for over 2,600 students. Those gifts are for five schools in impoverished communities including Robles Elementary.READ MORE: Sarasota Man Arrested In Connection To Fatal Shooting At Ackerman Park
“So we found out we had five elementary campuses that needed assistance we were all in. We just couldn’t wait,” said Newman.
“Third grade, fourth grade boys are going to get footballs, maybe a remote control car if we have it. They’re going to get the things that they really wished for,” said James.
The gifts were delivered Monday morning just in time for winter break. They included matchbox car sets, basketballs, footballs and hundreds of name brand dolls.
“Because, sometimes, kids get so many “dollar store” things, they feel less than themselves and they feel like they’re on top of the world when they look at it. They say, ‘A real Barbie!’,” said James. “This school is over 90 percent ethnic – black and Spanish. We made it central to the kids and dolls that look like them.”MORE NEWS: Brothers Arrested And Facing Charges For Shooting Into Vehicle
“We want everybody to have a merry Christmas and know that, you know, even though Hillsborough County School Security and Emergency Management worries about safety every day, we also want to give back. And my team has done a great job. I could not be more proud of them,” said Newman.