Story by Jeff Lipton
Not even a superstorm could dampen the holiday
spirit enjoyed by the children in Long Beach.
Acting like a modern-day Grinch, Hurricane Sandy
arrived within striking distance of Christmas and tried to steal the holiday
from Long Beach children and their families.
On top of that, a devastating fire at the Knights of
Columbus headquarters in Long Beach, where the annual children’s Christmas
party was scheduled to be held, all but dashed hopes for a normal holiday
celebration for the kids.
However, a massive toy drive was undertaken and not
one but two Christmas parties will be held for Long Beach kids.
blaze at the Long Beach Knights of ColumbusMsgr. Cass 2626, at 970 West Beech St., on Dec. 10, sent the Knights scrambling
for an alternative location for the annual party.
The party will now be held on Sunday, Dec. 23, from
1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at St. Ignatius gymnasium on West Broadway and New York
Avenue. Ronald Bowne, the grand knight, said his list of guests includes at
least 75 children, who will be given about 400 toys that were donated.
“For the last two and a half months, these residents
have been stressing and it will be nice just to see a smile on the children’s
faces, which will make it all worthwhile,” said Browne.
In addition, the Nassau County Sheriff’s Correction
Officers Benevolent Association (COBA) organized a week-long toy drive for Long
Beach kids impacted by Sandy, collecting more than 500 toys at its headquarters
in East Meadow. COBA ramped up its efforts after learning about the devastating
fire at the Knights of Columbus.
“We thought that helping the kids in the community
of Long Beach was a great idea,” said Greg Lanning, a COBA delegate. “But after
the fire happened, we said, ‘Wow, now what?”
The toys will be distributed during an
invitation-only party for the children at the Father Joseph O’Connell Council
of the Knights of Columbus, at 27 Kenneth Place in Oceanside, on Saturday, Dec.
22, from 12 noon to 4 p.m.
About 100 children will attend that party, said
Lanning, who added that it will include a magician, a clown, a DJ and, of
He added that about 300 new winter coats that were donated
will also be distributed.
“At the end of the day, it’s all about cheering
things up a little bit for the children and their families,” said Lanning. “It’s
about people stepping up.”
Lanning said COBA heard that the Long Beach Knights were using their lodge as a
distribution point for Sandy victims in need of food and clothing.
“What do you do when the place that helps those in
need is now in need themselves?” said Lanning. “It was a no-brainer. We’ve got
to be there for them. It was not a big deal. We do the toy drive anyway. We
just had to kick it up a little.”
He credits Brielle Hills of Oceanside, who helps out
with the American Red Cross, for getting donations and spearheading the toy
drive and the Oceanside party’s activities.
"I see these kids and my heart bleeds for them,”
said Hills, who grew up in Long Beach. “With the Red Cross, I’ve just seen
about everything from the hurricane.
“I want to put a smile on every child’s face,” she
added. “I want them to be happy and joyful. I want this to be a moment they
will never forget.”
Meanwhile, Browne said the burned-out building in
Long Beach will be razed and a new one built in its place, where the Knights
plan to hold next year’s Christmas party.