The Oakland workers’ compensation community and many others showed up in force last week to support the city’s disadvantaged children, and the result was a record haul of toys and cash raised for the Oakland Mayor’s Toy Drive’s Ninth Annual Opening Reception.
The gala event drew some 250 people to Boxer & Gerson’s downtown offices in the Rotunda Building, where the price of admission was either five unwrapped non-violent toys or $50 that would go to the purchase of such toys. Attendees were treated to finger foods, refreshments and musical entertainment that included the Pacific Boychoir Academy, the Piedmont Troubadours, and the George Spencer Trio.
By evening’s end, attendees had contributed 39 boxes of toys and $32,526 (along with one red tricycle), all of it destined to join other citywide efforts that are expected to ensure that more than 5,000 Oakland children will receive toys this holiday season who may otherwise have gone without. The reception totals far outdid last year’s 32 boxes of toys and $18,000 in cash donations.
Fortunately for event organizers, a large contingent of Oakland Police cadets with young healthy backs saw to it that a good portion of the toys were transported to a warehouse where they would await distribution in the days ahead. (See photo below.)
Also lending huge hands were the Oakland Mayor’s office, the city’s unionized employees, the Oakland Fire Department and Oakland’s own A’s and Warriors sports teams.
The Oakland Mayor’s Toy Drive dates back to 1979 and the Lionel Wilson administration. All five subsequent mayors since then have lent their support and prestige to the effort, which got a small boost in 2009 when Boxer & Gerson’s Maria Grasso got the inspiration to conduct an in-house reception for employees who brought toys to contribute to the citywide effort.
That modest beginning has since become a huge boost to the Toy Drive as the opening reception grew into a public event that has been energetically embraced by the workers’ compensation community and other Boxer & Gerson friends. .
Current mayor Libby Schaaf was an honored guest at this year’s reception, as was Interim Deputy Fire Chief Melinda Drayton and Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board Presiding Judge Gene Lam. Al Lujan of the City of Oakland, widely hailed as “the heart and soul” of the Toy Drive for the past 16 years, was an honored speaker as he bowed out to let others carry on the tradition he has done so much to promote.