Tribe provides $100,000 for annual shopping spree benefitting disadvantaged and abused children
Laughter and excitement filled the morning air as 3,000 disadvantaged children from across the Inland region eagerly searched for their favorite toys during the annual Christmas Cheer All Year shopping spree Monday sponsored by the Morongo Band of Mission Indians.
For the fourth year in a row, Morongo served as title sponsor for the popular holiday event by providing $100,000 in cash and services to the non-profit Christmas Cheer All Year organization to conduct the shopping spree at the Toys R Us at the Ontario Mills.
“The Morongo Band of Indians is delighted to be spreading holiday joy again this year by treating 3,000 local children in need to a holiday shopping spree,” said Morongo Tribal Chairman Robert Martin. “Words can't express how wonderful it is to see the smiles on these young faces as they select the toys of their dreams.”
Children from across the Inland region, the San Gorgonio Pass and the Coachella Valley were selected by local charities and non-profit 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, Lego sets and stuffed animals, footballs, and video games.
Six-year-old Gilbert Merendon of Cabazon knew exactly what he wanted when he walked in the door – a remote-control truck. “That was on my list,” Gilbert said as he grinned and he held the truck while his twin sister, Monique, pressed buttons on the toy cash register she was buying.
Their mother, Keri, said the shopping spree brought some peace of mind to her and her husband.
“It helps out a lot. We have 10 children and we were trying to figure out how we were going to get a present for every one of them,” Keri Merendon said. “They’re still pretty young and they don’t understand the meaning of Christmas yet. It’s still about toys at that age.”
Instead of shopping for a gift for herself, Jada Bryant of Banning, was thinking of her three younger siblings, ages 2 through 11. “This morning I decided I wanted to buy them something for Christmas instead of something for myself,” the 17-year-old said.
“Just for our kids to be able to come to the event here and be a part of the fun here today, I feel blessed for that,” said her father, Deven Ray. “That Morongo extended this opportunity to us, it was a blessing.”
The shopping spree is organized annually by Rick Lozano, founder of Christmas Cheer All Year and a longtime Fox 11 News journalist.
“Year after year, Morongo opens their hearts to help bring happiness to local children whose families are struggling through tough times,” Lozano said. “Morongo continues to help make a difference in the lives of disadvantaged children.”
For the third year in a row, nearly 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’ commitment to helping disadvantaged and abused children is an inspiring example of community spirit during this season of sharing,” said Riverside County Supervisor Marion Ashley.
Morongo transported 500 children from the San Gorgonio Pass and Coachella Valley to the shopping spree, including many from the James A. Venable Community Center in Cabazon.
“Our community continues to wrestle with extremely high poverty and unemployment rates that have many of the families we serve struggling just to keep a roof over their heads and to provide their children with necessities,” said Josie Coates, manager of the Venable Community Center. “Every year, our kids get really excited about the shopping spree, and Morongo's support of this annual event is just another example of the tribe's willingness to help local families in our community.”
The Morongo Band of Mission Indians has a long tradition of giving. The tribe contributes more than $1 million annually to support communities and non-profit organizations across the Inland Empire and Southern California.