Wide-eyed grins and excitement reigned Monday as 3,500 disadvantaged children from across the Inland region searched for their favorite toys during the fifth annual Christmas Cheer All Yearshopping spree, sponsored by the Morongo Band of Mission Indians.
As title sponsor for the popular holiday event, Morongo donated $100,000 in cash and services to the nonprofit Christmas Cheer All Year organization, which conducted the shopping spree at the Toys R Us at the Ontario Mills.
“The Morongo Band of Indians is very happy to once again be partnering with Christmas Cheer All Year to make holiday wishes come true for 3,500 children in need,” Morongo Tribal Chairman Robert Martin said. “It is incredibly moving and fun to see all these young faces light up as they find the toys of their dreams.”
Children from across the Inland Empire, including the San Gorgonio Pass and Coachella Valley, were selected by local charities and nonprofit groups to take part in the event.
Throughout the morning, smiling children emerged from the Toys R Us clutching everything from Avengers action figures to Barbie dolls, Pokémon toys, skateboards, toy cars, Lego sets and stuffed animals, footballs and video games.
“It’s pretty awesome because you can buy anything,” said Michael Torres, 8, of San Jacinto.
Six-year-old Carlin Ochoa of Cabazon agreed, softly calling Disney’s hit motion picture ”Frozen” her favorite movie as she hugged an oversized stuffed doll of the character Olaf the snowman. Her 4-year-old brother, Fabian, was eager to play with a remote control off-road pickup truck.
“It’s nice because they get too experience something new,” her mother, Linda Ochoa, said, adding that the shopping spree would help her children enjoy the holidays. “I’m glad Morongo was able to help people out again this year.”
Since 2010, Morongo has donated more than $450,000 to the annual shopping sprees organized by Rick Lozano, founder of Christmas Cheer All Year and a longtime Fox 11 News journalist. To date, the program has reached 20,000 children. “Every year, I’m blown away by Morongo’s generosity toward these disadvantaged youngsters,” Lozano said. “It really makes a difference in their lives.”
For the fourth year in a row, at least 300 children in protective care with the Riverside County Department of Public Social Services (DPSS) took part in the shopping spree program. Without Morongo’s help, these children would have gone without a present, county officials said.
“The Morongo Band of Mission Indians has come forward once again to help the most vulnerable and innocent in our society – disadvantaged and abused children – and the tribe’s work with the folks at Christmas Cheer All Year is an inspiring example of holiday and community spirit,” Riverside County Supervisor Marion Ashley said.
Five hundred children from the San Gorgonio Pass and Coachella Valley took part in the shopping spree, including many from theJames A. Venable Community Center in Cabazon.
“Every year, the underprivileged kids we work with get super excited about the shopping spree,” said Deana Mann, manager of the Venable Center. “Morongo’s continued support of this event is a testament to the tribe’s commitment to helping our community. A lot of families in this region have been left behind by the economic recovery and are struggling to provide their children with basic necessities.”
The Morongo Band of Mission Indians has a long tradition of giving. The tribe contributes more than $1 million annually to support communities and nonprofits across the Inland Empire and Southern California.