WOODLAND PARK, N.J. — After 8-year-old Jayden Perez attended a New York Giants game with his father Javier in September, he learned a life lesson: sometimes it’s good to be generous to others.
Ever since Jayden received two VIP tickets as a gift from his mother’s boss to watch the game, a Monday night match-up against the Detroit Lions, he has made it his mission to give back to the community.
He and his family are doing just that this holiday season.
Perez and his family are hosting a toy drive at their home in Woodland Park Sunday, for the victims of Hurricane Maria.
People can drop toys off at the 90 Jackson Ave. home where there will be a table set up on their front lawn with balloons and a Puerto Rican flag, explained Jayden’s mother Ana Rosado.
Individuals dressed up as Mickey and Minnie Mouse will be giving out candy canes and cookies to those who donate. Salsa music and holiday tunes will also be playing, said Rosado.
“The drive was Jayden’s idea,” said Rosado because he wanted to donate his Christmas toys to the children in Puerto Rico, the country where his family is from. Jayden is hopeful that many of the children in Puerto Rico will get a gift this year, just like he got three months ago.
“At first when I opened the envelope, I thought they were coupons but then I realized they were tickets and I was like ‘oh my gosh, I got tickets,'” Jayden recalled about when he received the tickets. “I had never been to a game before.”
He then started crying because he was in shock that he received such as momentous gift. His parents took a video of his reaction, which his mother said went viral on social media.
He hopes the children experience that same feeling of joy that he did.
When Rosado said she suggested having the drive at their home, Jayden was ecstatic.
He said, “I’ll tell my school. I’ll tell everyone,” according to Rosado.
And so far people have started to donate.
“We have about 30 toys already,” said Rosado, noting that they received donations from her co-workers, friends and coaches of Jayden’s football team, the Woodland Park Panthers C Squad, which is run through the Woodland Park Boys & Girls Club.
The toy drive isn’t the first time Jayden and his family helped the victims of Hurricane Maria. In October, they collected food and supplies for those in Puerto Rico.
“The hurricane came in from one side of the island and came out on the other side and basically did damage to the whole island, said Javier Perez, noting that Yabacao was one of the cities hit the hardest.
“Nobody expected Hurricane Maria to be that devastating,” Perez said, explaining that people were without power or gas after the storm hit and that trees are gone and crops got destroyed.
Perez, who has relatives that live in Puerto Rico, said he and his family were “a nervous wreck” in the days after Hurricane Maria struck the island.
“I heard from my aunt Lydia like seven days after,” Perez explained, but noted he was only able to talk to them for a short time because the communication wasn’t great. He said his grandmother’s home was devastated during the storm.
Rosado said that people in Puerto Rico have since received the food and supplies they donated.
“People posted pictures on social media. It was a success and we made people very happy,” said Rosado.
Now they are hoping to do the same with the toy drive. If people can’t make it tomorrow, Rosado explained, they can still participate.
People can either bring toys to their house or Rosado said she can pick toys up from people. They will be collecting toys until Dec. 15. People interested in donating who can’t attend the drive should call 201-913-6543. They can also donate money on https://www.gofundme.com/christmas-toys-for-kids-in-pr .
Information from: The Record (Woodland Park, N.J.), http://www.northjersey.com