On Friday afternoon at Heekin Park in Muncie, 30 children from local day cares had a chance to celebrate Christmas a few days early. Thanks to the kindness of JAKKS Pacific Inc. Chairman and CEO Stephen Berman and his good friend, Pacers Sports & Entertainment owner Herb Simon, children just like them all across the state of Indiana have experienced the joy of the holiday season.
Friday’s visit to Muncie was the fifth event in the past two weeks where the Indiana Pacers and Indiana Fever joined with local police departments as part of a state-wide distribution of toys from JAKKS Pacific (a leading U.S. toy and consumer products manufacturer based in Santa Monica, California, that designs, develops, and markets consumer products for children and pets) to 50 non-profit organizations in celebration of the Pacers’ 50th season.
Previous stops included Terre Haute, Bloomington, Fort Wayne (in partnership with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, the Pacers’ D-League affiliate), and Lafayette. A sixth scheduled event in Evansville was cancelled due to inclement weather, but those toys will still be distributed to local organizations.
This is the seventh consecutive year that Berman has made a major donation of toys to Indiana children. Just as in past years, the Pacers and Fever have partnered with the Indiana National Guard to help distribute the toys to local agencies.
A large assortment of guests was in attendance on Friday in Muncie, including representatives from Pacers Sports & Entertainment, the Muncie police department, and the Muncie mayor’s office.
Pacers great Darnell Hillman, Pacers mascot Boomer, Fever mascot Freddy Fever, members of the Indiana Pacemates dance team, and even Santa Claus himself were on hand to help the children unwrap their presents.
“It’s pretty easy to tell with all the people that are here today that the Pacers organization loves the state of Indiana and they love the children and families in the state of Indiana,” Muncie mayor Dennis Tyler said. “That’s really what it’s all about this time of year, people coming together to make sure everybody has a blessed holiday.”
Each event has been merely a tip-off for a much larger distribution of toys to organizations throughout each local community.
“This is benefiting so many more kids than just the few who are here today,” Muncie Police Chief Joseph Winkle said. “We’re passing presents out in our squad cars, we’re going to the pediatric unit at the hospital next week, it’s impacting far more.”
The holiday toy giveaway is part of the PacersCares and the Pacers’ “Season of Giving”, which included other holiday events such as: Pacers “Come To Our House” Thanksgiving Meal presented by Rodney Stuckey and US Foods, “Shop With The Pacers” presented by Simon Malls, volunteers packing over 100,000 meals for Gleaners Food Bank courtesy of the RoomPlace, and blanket-making at Bankers Life Fieldhouse for the American Red Cross.
The toy giveaway will culminate on Monday, Dec. 19, when the Pacers host the Washington Wizards at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. There, Berman, Simon, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and members of both teams will join in the final toy distribution during pregame and in-game festivities.