Jacksonville children get an early Christmas

Thousands of toys, smiles at Children's Christmas Party of Jacksonville

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Christmas came early Saturday morning for thousands of Jacksonville children thanks to the generosity of the community.

Kids picked out presents Saturday morning at the 15th annual Children's Christmas Party of Jacksonville.

It's run by a nonprofit that collects donated toys and money to buy toys.

Volunteers set up days before for the big event at the Prime Osborn Convention Center. Doors opened at 9 a.m. and the party ended at 12:30 p.m.

"We're here to play and get presents," said 10-year-old Arkyesha Henry.

"The best thing about being here is I get to meet new people," said 6-year-old Vanshon Maris, "and I get to see the Jaguar when he comes by on the motorcycle."

Children ranging in age from infant to 12 were given three tickets each, which were exchanged for toys. Some of those tickets were randomly stamped for a new bicycle.

"So it's more for the experience of Christmas, family, friends, people getting together having good time," said Christopher Dickerson.

The Children's Christmas Party of Jacksonville began in 1999. No registration is needed. It's first come, first served.

"It's fun, because I get to spend time with sisters and cousins, aunties and grandmas," said 8-year-old Dezyanna Everett.

Before Jaxson DeVille arrived in the morning – along with Mr. and Mrs. Claus, and about 700 volunteers who passed out all the gifts – families spent the evening, and will spend the night, enjoying a unique opportunity – for unity in their city.

The gifts make a big difference, too.

"It means a lot to help out people," said Victoria Dickerson. "We're really grateful."

Meanwhile, some Clay County firefighters spent their day getting ready for an event that gives that county's children in need a merry Christmas.

They were fixing up bikes for the J.P. Hall Christmas Party, which will be held Dec. 21.

The firefighters inspected the bikes, put air in the tires and took them out on a "test ride." They hope to give out 400 bikes at next weekend's party.

The party provides toys for kids up to age 14, as well as free clothing for the entire family.

Proof of Clay County residency is required.

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