Alicia Blakely was a part of the group of 1,500 workers last month that found out they would not have a job at the General Motors Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant when it closes. That will not happen until the end of 2019, but she wanted to plan ahead on her savings and did not know where Christmas would come from for her three children.
But thanks to a generous donation from Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores, approximately 10,000 toys, bicycles, and helmets were distributed to families in Detroit, Flint, Saginaw, Bay City, and surrounding neighborhoods served by Marines and volunteers of the Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program. Hatcher was able to pick-up two bikes for her sons, and a doll for her daughter at Shed 5 in Historic Eastern Market Thursday morning, assuring a nice Christmas for her children.
“This was truly a Christmas miracle for me and my family,” said Hatcher, who cried when volunteers rolled the bikes out of the shed to her Yukon. “I didn’t know what I was going to do for Christmas, but I couldn’t come home empty-handed. What the Pistons have done for my family and others is really appreciated. Now I have less worries going into the new year.”
Gores and his wife Holly support a number of Detroit-area causes focused on improving the quality of life for families in need and contributing to the revitalization of the region and the state. They both grew up in the area and have quietly supported holiday toy distributions across Michigan since 2006 and have delivered over 100,000 gifts to families.
“Getting kids excited and bringing smiles to their faces is so important during the holidays,” Gores said in a statement. “We want to deliver a little hope and happiness to children and their families during this special time of year. We launched this effort 12 years ago and have been working with Toys for Tots for nearly a decade. It’s a great organization and we are proud to be their partner and support the important work they do.”
The Gores family’s partnership with Toys for Tots began in 2009 and has delivered over 90,000 toys to more than 34,000 children. Prior to aligning with Toys for Tots, Gores supported similar gift-giving programs through other organizations. After supporting the programs as a “Secret Santa” for seven years, Gores agreed in 2013 to be identified in order to encourage others to join in with contributions of their own.
“Holidays are an especially trying time for families in need and purchasing gifts is a luxury few can afford,” said Lieutenant General Pete Osman, USMC (Ret), President and CEO, Marine Toys for Tots Foundation. “We are very pleased to have such generous support from Tom Gores and his family whose community service goals certainly align with those the Marine Corps has promoted for over 70 years through our Toys for Tots Program. Their support will help deliver joy and a message of hope to many thousands of children who otherwise might be forgotten.”
Pistons mascot Hooper was at the event in his Santa suit and former Pistons forward Earl Cureton also lent a helping hand, helping recipients pick-out gifts and load bikes into cars and trucks. Cureton, who played for the Pistons from 1983-1986 and in the Detroit area at Finney High School on the city’s far east side and the University of Detroit, understands what it is like going up in the city in need of assistance when he was younger.
“To have an opportunity to pass out toys to those in need and see their faces, the tears and the laughter, today was a pretty good day,” said the 6-foot-9 Cureton. “We didn’t have anything quite like this going on when I was younger, but I had a cousin that was really helpful to us around Christmas. His name was Sam Logan and he was the publisher of the Michigan Chronicle. That was my first cousin and he made sure our Christmas was special every year.”
Hundreds of Detroiters, who pre-registered through the Toys for Tots Program, lined up outside of the shed to receive toys, bikes, and other items for Christmas. Volunteers walked around with them and allowed them to put whatever they wanted into red sacks, much like Santa Claus would do.
“If it weren’t for this cause, a lot of us would not have a Christmas as we know it,” said Chris Morton, who stood in line for bikes for his twin boys. “The kids go back to school and they talk about what they got for Christmas, and some kids would not have had an opportunity to do that if it weren’t for the Pistons and Toy for Tots.”
This article originally appeared in the Michigan Chronicle.