Their eyes glistened like Christmas lights as they saw the dozens upon dozens of wrapped gifts that were laid out before them.
And soon, their booming chants of “Santa! Santa! Santa!” would summon St. Nick.
Or at least “Santa Steve,” but still a jolly man in red who came bumbling in with the promise of presents.
On Thursday, December 15, Courier reporters — playing Santa and his Christmas elves — distributed hundreds of toys to the underprivileged youngsters of the South Queens Boys & Girls Club (SQBGC).
“I think that’s the earliest Santa has ever come [to the Boys & Girls club]. It was a really nice surprise for them,” said Denis Dwyer, the club’s program director. “They had no clue. It really made their day.”
Thanks to generous donations from the All American Car Club in Ozone Park, constituents of Assemblymember Ed Braunstein and Courier staff, advertisers and readers, The Courier was able to donate hundreds of toys to the Boys & Girls Club — with sacks of presents left over for the remaining club members at their holiday party.
The first 30 kids — out of a group of more than 50 — to receive gifts were chosen and rewarded based on the high points they accumulated doing their homework at the club, Dwyer said.
“We picked kids who have been hitting the books hard,” he said, adding that most of them were in kindergarten through second grade.
And the excitement of the young group helped to douse any doubts other kids might have had about the real St. Nick.
“They really believed Santa was there,” Dwyer said.
After all the gifts were distributed, each eager child gripped his own as they counted down from three with Santa Steve.
And then off flew the wrapping paper — unveiling Barbie dolls, race cars, board games and more.
“There was a nice buzz about that the whole day, and we had a lot of kids running to their parents at the end of the day to tell them and show them their new toys,” Dwyer said.
Founded in 1957, SQBGC strives to help young people improve their lives by building self-esteem and developing values and skills during critical periods of growth. The group’s mission is to inspire and enable all young people, especially those from at-risk and disadvantaged circumstances.