Laughter filled the air as 1,500 disadvantaged children from across the Inland region eagerly hunted for their favorite holiday toys Thursday during the annual Christmas Cheer All Year shopping spree sponsored by the Morongo Band of Mission Indians.
Excited children emerged from the Toys R Us store in Ontario clutching everything from Iron Man action figures to Barbie dolls, stuffed animals, footballs, Lego play sets and video games.
“It was totally awesome,” 11-year-old Ronnie T. said of the shopping spree where she picked out an Orbeez remote control Ladybug Scooper and several other items. “We got a lot of toys.”
Douglas, also 11, said he and his brother had spent the week planning and talking about which toys they wanted to buy at the shopping spree. For Douglas, who loves playing catch with his dad, a new Wilson NFL football topped the list. “This was a lot of fun,” he said.
As the title sponsor, Morongo provided $100,000 in cash and services to the non-profit Christmas Cheer All Year to conduct the shopping spree. The children, who were from across the Inland region, the San Gorgonio Pass and the Coachella Valley, were pre-selected by local charities and non-profit groups.
“The Morongo Band of Mission Indians is delighted to be partnering once again with Christmas Cheer All Year to brighten the holidays for hundreds of local children who otherwise would not be receiving any presents this year,” said Morongo Tribal Chairman Robert Martin. “It’s wonderful to see the smiles on these young faces, and we are especially pleased to be working again with the County of Riverside to bring joy to children who have been victims of abuse and neglect.”
For the second year in a row, dozens 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.
“In this season of sharing, the Morongo Band of Mission Indians continues to demonstrate its commitment to the most vulnerable in our community—children in need,” said Riverside County Supervisor Marion Ashley.
The shopping spree is organized annually by Rick Lozano, a longtime Fox 11 journalist and founder of Christmas Cheer All Year.
“Every year, we can count on Morongo and our partners in the community to help bring happiness to the hearts of local children whose families are struggling through tough times,” Lozano said. “Morongo continues to help make a difference in the lives of disadvantaged children.”
Morongo involved more than 450 children from the San Gorgonio Pass and Coachella Valley in the shopping spree, and provided many of the kids with breakfast and transportation to the event.
Many of the children came from the James A. Venable Community Center in Cabazon.
“Our community is suffering with some of the highest poverty and unemployment rates in the region. Many of the families we serve are struggling just to provide necessities,” said Josie Coates, center manager of the Venable Community Center. “The annual shopping spree is just one of the many ways that Morongo supports our local community and local families.”
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.