JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Children’s Christmas Party of Jacksonville on Wednesday announced a change of plan for distributing toys to children in the Jacksonville area during December.
The annual party has been canceled because of the risk of COVID-19. News4Jax is a proud sponsor of the yearly event, which draws thousands of children to the Prime Osborn Convention Center to receive presents for Christmas.
In a typical year, there’s no registration, no appointments to get toys -- it’s just first-come-first-served. In fact, people would line up a day before the event just to get inside.
Board members said they’ve been fighting for months to keep the party going, but the COVID Grinch won out in the end and they had to switch gears. Instead of the usual in-person distribution, the nonprofit is partnering with several other organizations to distribute the toys to children already enrolled in their programs. Leftover toys will go to Toys For Tots.
“We wish we could hold our event as usual with thousands of Jacksonville’s good people coming together to celebrate Christmas, however, this new method of toy distribution by our charity was a needed compromise in a year experiencing a public health crisis,” Diane Halverson, executive director of The Children’s Christmas Party, said in a prepared statement.
Marina Raffety shared a video of her daughter at a previous party.
“My little one, her eyes open up. She was quite happy and bubbly,” Raffety said.
Now the mom is worrying if she can get her daughter any gifts at all this year.
“COVID has stolen everything from us,” she said.
This would have been the 22nd year for the event put on by The Children’s Christmas Party of Jacksonville nonprofit.
FROM THE VAULT: First Children’s Christmas Party in 1999
But the tradition of Christmas toys for Jacksonville children in need goes back decades -- to the start of the Dorcas Drake Christmas Party in the 1950s.
Families can still apply for The Salvation Army’s Angel Tree Program, but today is the deadline for families in Duval, St. Johns, and Clay counties.
Registration for Toys for Tots starts Nov. 1 and ends Dec. 1.
The Children’s Christmas Party nonprofit hopes to have an in-person distribution in 2021.