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Morongo Helps Grant Holiday Wishes to 3,500 Children

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Tribe provides $100,000 for annual Christmas Cheer All Year shopping spree to benefit disadvantaged children, including 600 kids from the San Gorgonio Pass.

ONTARIO, Calif. – Laughter filled the morning air Monday as 3,500 low-income children from across Inland Southern California eagerly hunted for their favorite toys during the sixth annual Christmas Cheer All Yearshopping spree, sponsored by the Morongo Band of Mission Indians near Palm Springs.

Throughout the morning, smiling children emerged from Toys R Us clutching toys from the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens movie, or the popular Frozen and Minions films. Other carried Legos, Avengers action figures, Barbie dolls, skateboards, stuffed animals, footballs, and games.

“The Morongo Band of Mission Indians is excited to be teaming up for a sixth year with Christmas Cheer All Year to brighten the holidays for thousands of local children in need,” Morongo Tribal Chairman Robert Martin said. “To see the joy on the children’s faces when they hold their dream toy – it’s an incredibly moving experience.”

Morongo Band of Mission Indians

Morongo Tribal Chairman Robert Martin with some of 3,500 Inland children who participated Monday in the annual Christmas Cheer All Year shopping 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.

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.

“It’s good to see everyone with a smile on their face,” said Audree Rios, 12, of Banning, as she held a pair of Batman headphone in her hand. “It’s cool because they give you enough to get two or three presents.”

Amy Wilson, whose two children were taking part in the shopping spree, called the event a blessing for families in need of a helping hand this holiday season.

“I love that they do this for the kids,” said Wilson, 34. “Morongo does so much for the community and for the kids. It’s really exciting.”

Since 2010, Morongo has donated more than $550,000 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 over 20,000 children.

“Morongo’s generosity and commitment to these children and families in need is remarkable, and they help us touch so many lives year and year,” Lozano said.

As in past years, hundreds of 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.

“This is the season of sharing, and our thanks go out to the Morongo Band of Mission Indians and Christmas Cheer year All Year for epitomizing that spirit by helping bring joy to the most vulnerable in our communities -- children in need,” Riverside County Supervisor Marion Ashley said.

Six hundred children from the San Gorgonio Pass and Coachella Valley took part in the shopping spree, including 70 from the James A. Venable Community Center in Cabazon.

“Our children are always very excited about the shopping spree, and it’s such a blessing for many of our families who are struggling just to put food on the table,” said Deana Mann, manager of the Venable Center. “Thanks to Morongo and Christmas Cheer All Year, many of our children will have a very merry holiday.”

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.