Christmas Angels: The Young Lions Toy Drive Helps Santa Every Year

Each Christmas, far too many children are forced to learn harsh lessons about life’s inequities much earlier than they should.  It seems Santa skimps on the presents under their trees, or skips over their houses entirely, while friends, neighbors, or classmates are lavished with attention from old St. Nick.  Experts agree that this can leave many children feeling as if it’s somehow their own fault when they wake up and there are no presents under their trees. The Young Lions have a long history of taking on the challenge of this holiday injustice.

In Tampa Bay, the Young Lions have earned a reputation for going above and beyond to help Tampa’s low-income youth enjoy the holiday season.  It should come as no surprise that they are currently preparing for their ambitious annual gift drive, the Christmas Angels project.


To make donating even easier, they have created an Amazon Wish List, with suggested gifts for the children on their list. With items ranging from pajamas to footballs, bed sheets to diapers, and rocking horses to tablets, there are gifts to fit every kind-hearted elf’s budget. Go to https://www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/1QLSPK76K9I2L?ref=cm_sw_em_r_un_un_DPcSL8lvFWzO9  and help brighten a child’s holiday.

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A single act of selflessness became one of Tampa’s largest charitable endeavors

Today, the Young Lions’ Christmas Angels Toy Drive project is one of the largest volunteer movements in Tampa Bay, helping more than 200 families a year make Christmas a magical time regardless of their financial situation.  It wasn’t always so, however, and one of the group’s leaders, Bridgett Greene, recalls the small act of generosity that inspired the Christmas Angels project.

“Fifteen years ago, Coach Dexter Bryant, Young Lions Executive Director, was coaching a high school basketball team, and we learned that one of the families was homeless and living out of a hotel nearby.  As soon as we heard about their situation, we decided to help.  The holidays were coming, so we quickly started collecting up gifts and donations to make sure that this young girl and her family would have a really great Christmas.”  

“When we finally gathered everything up and got to the motel, everyone was just flooded with tears.  I’ll never forget just how happy and thankful they were.  Their little boy gave us the biggest hugs, and it was such a touching moment, I was in tears the whole way home.  I think Dexter and I knew then, that we were just getting started with this project.”

Bridgett had no idea how right she was!  The next year, the couple got to work, and launched the inaugural Young Lions Christmas Angels project – starting strong, supporting about 150 kids that first Christmas.  But fifteen years later, the program has only gotten stronger, now  reaching about 600 children and more than 200 families across the Tampa Bay area last year.     

Making a List… that’s longer every year

This year the Young Lions plan to pull out all the stops for their Christmas Angels Toy Drive benefiting Tampa’s low income children. It should come as no surprise that the donation and collection part of their mission has already begun for the 2022 holiday season.

They are accepting donations of cash and gifts at these locations around the Bay area:

Elevation Life Center
755 W. Lumsden Rd
Brandon, Fl 33511

Car Credit North West Tampa Location
2902 W. HIllsborough Ave
Tampa, FL 33614

 

Italiano Insurance Services
3021 W. Swann Ave
Tampa, Fl 33609

Car Credit Ruskin Location
108 N US Hwy 41 Ruskin,
FL 33570

Coles Barber Shop
5204 N. 34th St
Tampa, Fl 33610

Car Credit Holiday Location
2008 US Hwy 19 North
Holiday, FL 34691

Car Credit East Tampa Location
3923 E. Hillsborough Ave.
Tampa, FL 33610

To make donating even easier, they have created an Amazon Wish List, with suggested gifts for the children on their list. With items ranging from pajamas to footballs, bed sheets to diapers, and rocking horses to tablets, there are gifts to fit every kind-hearted elf’s budget. Go to https://www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/1QLSPK76K9I2L?ref=cm_sw_em_r_un_un_DPcSL8lvFWzO9  and help brighten a child’s holiday.

There is also a Venmo account to make financial donations convenient:

https://account.venmo.com/u/coachdexter

Believing in Angels

Volunteers to help with the collection, storage, wrapping, and distribution of donations are just as important as the actual donations themselves to the Christmas Angels mission. Each December, a small army of volunteers convenes for a huge holiday party, complete with plenty of food and fun, and enough present wrapping to give the North Pole a run for its money.

This year the Young Lions have partnered with the nonprofit Nuevo En US, and local philanthropist Steve Cuculich to host this event on Saturday, December 10th, at Car Credit’s East Tampa location, at 3923 E. Hillsborough Ave.  Tampa, FL 33610.

Of course, the final step is to get the gifts into the hands of the families. So, one week before Christmas Eve, on Saturday, December 17th, Car Credit East Tampa will be the site of the 2022 Young Lions Winter Festival. This huge event is the culmination of the entire Christmas Angels project. The primary focus of the Winter Festival is to distribute all those freshly wrapped presents, but the party itself will include food, music, a bounce castle, and even an appearance from Santa himself.

“Oh, yes, we truly believe in angels,” says Coach Dexter, speaking of the volunteers, “We see more and more of them every year.”

Learn more on the Young Lions website at https://younglionsyouth.org.

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