Rock Church hosted its 23rd annual Toys for Joy event last Saturday where children and families were gifted with free toys, lunch, groceries, and more! The total number of guests served this year was over 15,000 people. 21,995 toys were collected to give to children, 215,800 articles of clothing were donated and distributed at the Lincoln High School location, and 8,200 bags of groceries were provided to families in need. The most impactful part of the day was that 2,180 people responded to the gospel message!
At dawn on Saturday morning, long lines of families could already be seen coiling in multiple directions as if waiting for a Disneyland attraction. Multiple families set up tents the night before and camped out on the sidewalk to be at the front of the line to get a brand-new toy. The very first family in line at the Lincoln High School location had staked their ground at 10 AM the day before.
Aside from the thousands of toys that are distributed every year at Toys for Joy, 3,870 volunteers stepped in to serve their community this year.
Alesea celebrated her 13th birthday on Saturday and spent the day serving at Toys for Joy. When asked why she chose to volunteer at the event rather than celebrate elsewhere, she responded, “I just love to see the kids get blessed. They stand in line, and it’s just great to see how happy the kids are.” Last year, Alesea spent time talking with a family and was able to share the gospel with an elderly woman and she and her family made the decision to follow Christ.
That is what is so special about Toys for Joy. One reason that “it’s more than a toy” is because the gospel message is shared with every family before they even enter the toy room. After watching performances of song and dance, the families hear one of the Rock’s pastors share the good news of Jesus Christ (in Spanish and English) and are offered the opportunity to accept Jesus as their Savior.
After hearing the message of hope, the families get to enter the Toy Room—an entire gymnasium filled to the brim with every toy imaginable. It is so moving to see every kid’s eyes open wide with joy.
One distinctive aspect of the event is the Miracle 139 Special Needs Room, where children with special needs and their parents are invited to a low sensory room with fun activities just for them. They have crafts, snacks, and a quieter space to enjoy their time together. Then they get to go on a tour with just a handful of people where they have the opportunity to receive clothes and then choose a toy from the Toy Room during a time when it is less crowded.
In addition to the thousands of toys that were distributed, free lunches were also provided for the families, along with thousands of bags of groceries. A mother and her four children slept in a pop-up tent on the sidewalk the night before Toys for Joy. She mentioned, “I’m looking forward to the groceries because food has been a little low lately.” Her husband has been deployed for 18 months and won’t return for another six. She lost her job last year and childcare is too expensive for her to be able to get another job while he is gone. She was overwhelmed with gratitude as volunteers loaded her stroller with bags of groceries.
At the Lincoln location, the Rock Thrift Store in partnership with Angels Closet created a store onsite where families could get as much gently-used clothing as they needed for free.
Tom, a tutor for refugees through the San Diego Refugee Tutoring organization brought eight children from Tanzania that he mentors. He was sick and had to sit down while the kids picked out shoes. Even though it wasn’t easy for him, he was willing to stand in long lines just so that the kids (who aren’t even his) could receive toys and clothes for Christmas.
At the Guajome Park Academy location, a young father that was there with his family said that 2019 was a really hard year for them, but he was happy he could at least have peace about all of his children getting Christmas presents this year. He was grateful for this event because it meant he had one less thing to worry about during this season. He and his family enjoyed their time together on the Family Field where there was a stage with singing and dancing, crafts, balloon animals, and other fun activities for the kids.
All four Toys for Joy locations gave away free haircuts. 757 haircuts to be exact. One mother mentioned that she always looks forward to this part of Toys for Joy because that is the only time of the year she is able to get haircuts for her kids. Candice Buckett, who oversees the Makeover Ministry, gave away hair color for all the moms that came the night before and waited in line so their kids could get a toy.
Toys for Joy would not be possible without the contributions and in-kind donations from their sponsors. Children’s Primary Dental was one sponsor that provided 5,000 dental kits and activity booths for kids at the Guajome Park and Castle Park High School locations. One lady that was serving at the booth was in tears as she described her experience. She was once in a similar situation of need, and she had no idea the impact that an event like this could have. She said, “I feel very blessed to be able to give and be a part of Toys for Joy. I plan to make it back for 2020.”
One thing is for certain, whether an attendee or a volunteer, all were blessed to be a part of the 23rd Annual Toys for Joy. Everyone experienced love, joy, and hope regardless of their circumstances this Christmas season, even if just for a day. The truth is, it is so much more than a toy. This event would not be possible without the support of Rock Church, its sponsors, and its thousands of volunteers.
To learn more about Toys for Joy, visit toys-for-joy.org