Toys for Christmas brought smiles to the faces of 75 children this week in Columbus.

But it was the antics of Boomer, the Indiana Pacers mascot, and colleague Freddie Fever that made the toy donations a slam dunk in the minds of the awed recipients. The 75 are among 2,000 children from the Columbus area who will benefit from the generosity shown by the Indiana Pacers, Indiana Fever and a toy-manufacturing partner.

More than 100 people gathered Tuesday at The Commons for the first part of the giveaway. Guests included 50 first-graders from Columbus Signature Academy Lincoln Campus and 25 preschool students from the Little Lambs Childcare Ministry at Sandy Hook Church.

Representatives from the Pacers and Fever, working in partnership with JAKKS Pacific Toy Co., are donating the toys to four charitable groups working to distribute holiday cheer — Lincoln-Central Neighborhood Family Center, Turning Point Domestic Violence Services, Shop with a Cop and the Columbus Firemen’s Cheer Fund.

They are among 200 agencies statewide getting a boost from the Pacers. Tuesday’s giveaway is being mirrored in six other Indiana cities Fort Wayne, Evansville, Greencastle, Connersville, Muncie and Kokomo, said Bill Benner, senior vice president of community relations for the Indiana Pacers.

The holiday toy giveaway is part of the Pacers Cares program and its Season of Giving initiative, now in its eighth year, Benner said.

For more on this story, see Saturday’s Republic.

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Matt Kent is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at 812-379-5712 or