At Southwest High School, the Rock Church’s 20th annual Toys for Joy event brought smiles, but it also brought much more – it brought families together. The yearly event provides groceries, clothing, entertainment and a free toy for each child in attendance.
Ricardo Rodriguez and Carla Castro came to Toys For Joy because their kids received a flyer from Mendoza Elementary, where they attend school. Ricardo was happily surprised to see his other sons, whom he had not seen in 7 months. His large family of 15 was thankful to get toys, haircuts, lunch and groceries.
"The bonus,” said Ricardo, “is that I am enjoying today because I have no worries of Christmas presents for the kids now, thanks to the Rock Church."
According to Rock Church San Ysidro Campus Pastor Travis Gibson, "Over 800 people, adults and kids, gave their life to Jesus and I am humbled to be a part of such an amazing event. I'm grateful that God would use our church to spread pervasive hope in the south county."
Throughout the event, kids were treated to face painting, manicures, haircuts and balloons. The families then were able to gobble up a tasty hot dog lunch and relax while enjoying a variety of entertainers on the stage. The list ranged from a Reggae Band to Polynesian dancers to a Mariachi Band to talented Rock Church singers and musicians!
City Councilman David Alvarez, who represents the community of Nestor, where Southwest High School is located in south San Diego, stopped by to take a tour of the event.
As a father himself, he found great joy in the toy room as he passed out toys to kids with happy faces. As he finished his tour, he said to Gibson, "Thank you! I hope you continue to do more great work!"
At 5:00 am, brother and sister, Rodrigo and Lillian Duenas each arrived to Southwest High School with their kids. Shocked to see that they were the first family in line for Toys for Joy, Lillian shared why they were so excited.
"Last year we heard about this event a few days before and after arriving around 9:00 am we were blown away at all the toys in the gym,” said Lillian. “My son hoped that he could get a scooter, but, he was happy to get a remote-controlled car. So, we said that this year we will wake up at 4:00 am to try to be the first ones in line so that the kids could get first pick of their toy."
First-time volunteer Karen Burks came dressed warmly with a festive scarf and cheerfully said, "Wow, I'm impressed at how organized the Rock Church is with this event. This is the way to start the Christmas season!"
As Burks walked around the Family Zone, she said, "I didn't know that there would be such talented people performing on stage today. These families deserve to enjoy all this fun and entertainment!"
As the afternoon was winding down, volunteer Lisa Autman on the Prayer Team noticed a woman in her work uniform running up to her. The woman asked, "Are you still available to pray for me?"
Lisa responded with heartfelt compassion, "Of course I can pray for you, and you're welcome to join us at church tomorrow."
Toys for Joy is definitely more than just a toy.
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