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Mayor de Blasio, Speaker Mark-Viverito, Commissioner Chong Host "Smiles of Love" Holiday Gift Distribution in Harlem

December 17, 2016

A record 3,002 toys for young people in NYC

Mayor Bill de Blasio, Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Department of Youth and Community Development Commissioner Bill Chong today hosted the eighth annual “Smiles of Love” holiday gift drive at John S. Roberts Junior High in East Harlem. This year, the annual drive collected over 3,000 gifts, doubling last year’s donations. More than 1,000 participants from DYCD’s COMPASS afterschool, Beacon, Cornerstone, Fatherhood, and Runaway and Homeless Youth programs received a wrapped gift at five simultaneous distribution events held across the City.

“The holiday season is all about being grateful for what we have, and sharing our gratitude with others,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “Smiles of Love is our way of giving back to those New Yorkers who may not be able to give something of their own. To not only reach more kids but to have received and distributed twice as many gifts as last year shows the strong community we all maintain in this city. I want to thank everyone who has donated to this wonderful cause, and helped make this the most successful toy drive yet.”

"Smiles of Love will bring holiday cheer to thousands of young people this holiday season," said Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. "I'm thrilled to join the Mayor and the Administration in El Barrio\East Harlem to kick off this special event and thank City employees for their generous donations."

“I am thrilled that my staff, fellow agencies and our community partners are putting thousands of smiles on the faces of thousands of young people across all five boroughs. For many youth and their families, this will be the only gift they will receive this year. Our annual Smiles of Love holiday toy drive truly embodies New York City’s spirit of giving during the holiday season,” said Department of Youth and Community Development Commissioner Bill Chong.

The Department of Youth and Community Development started the “Smiles of Love” annual toy drive in 2009. In addition to DYCD staff, private donors and the Department of Small Business Services, Department of Environmental Protection, Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Department of Consumer Affairs, and the NYPD held collection drives that helped make this a record year for the event. 

Gifts include basketballs, rideable cars and trucks, sporting equipment, board games, dolls and dollhouses, action figures, books, STEM learning toys, and life-sized dinosaur models. Mattel, Inc. donated more than 600 gifts to this year’s drive.

Additionally, McDonald’s provided 700 Happy Meals at the distribution events in Harlem, the Bronx and Staten Island.

As in previous years, any remaining toys will be distributed to other young people in need and at Three Kings Day events in January.

“We thank DYCD for coordinating the Smiles of Love ‎Gift Drive and bringing holiday joy to so many New York City children. DCA is committed to helping our communities and, during the season of giving, I’m proud that DCA and its staff helped contribute to this year’s gift drive,” said Department of Consumer Affairs Commissioner Lorelei Salas.

“DEP is proud to have once again partnered with the Department of Youth and Community Development this holiday season in support of the 8th annual Smiles of Love Gift Drive. Our employees generously donated hundreds of toys and we hope that these gifts bring smiles to children of all ages,” said Department of Environmental Protection Acting Commissioner Vincent Sapienza.

“The holiday season is a special time for many New Yorkers and reminds us all to be kind and charitable towards our neighbors, including those in need. Our department was proud to participate in the Department of Youth and Community Development’s annual toy drive, with our staff members generously donating 89 toys. We appreciate DYCD’s work to help spread a little extra holiday cheer to kids across the five boroughs,” said Gregg Bishop, Department of Small Business Services Commissioner.

“In this season of giving, our agency is honored to help brighten the holidays for children in need across New York City. We extend our thanks and appreciation to all the partners in this effort to make a difference for young people and their families,” said Dr. Barbara Sampson, Chief Medical Examiner.

“The Beacon program, Cornerstone, and SONYC provide so much for families in District 34 and across the City. As a participant of the Beacon program myself, I know the difference programming and additional student support can make to a working family. This year, I am thrilled to host DYCD’s gift distribution event in Ridgewood at the Greater Ridgewood Youth Council, who is opening its doors to families from over ten programs throughout Williamsburg, Bushwick, and Ridgewood. I would like to thank the Department of Youth and Community Development for their generosity and their commitment to service year-round,” said Council Member Antonio Reynoso.

“The holiday season can be tough on many low-income families struggling to provide for their families and bring gifts and smiles to children. Smiles of Love’s success, growth and service will surely bring happiness and many smiles to children in need. I applaud its goals and all donors and partners that help make it happen,” said Council Member Ritchie Torres.

“We are so thrilled that District 27 was chosen to host a DYCD toy distribution event this year. With ever increasing costs to manage, guaranteeing an enjoyable holiday season for our youth is no easy task for working families. I know that these 200 children will be so appreciative of DYCD’s generosity, and I am happy to partner with DYCD to highlight the excellent services they continue to provide to New York City’s youth,” said Council Member I. Daneek Miller.

The “Smiles of Love” holiday gift drive is also made possible by the countless hours donated by volunteers and the generous support of the following private donors:

  • Target - Throggs Neck, Staten Island (Veterans Road), Staten Island Central, Forest Hills, Harlem and Bronx Terminal stores
  • Neuberger Berman
  • Mainland Media and co-Founder and CEO of Anthony Ramirez II
  • Education Pioneers Eastern Region
  • New York City Office of
  • Greg Hambric, NYC Workforce Development Board Youth Committee member, and Community Action Board chair

“We are honored to partner with important organizations like DYCD that help make a difference in the lives of NYC children. Neuberger Berman exists to serve – our clients, our employees and our communities,” said Elizabeth Cribbs, President of the Neuberger Berman Foundation.

“We at Education Pioneers are thrilled to be involved in the Smiles of Love toy drive for the second year running. Our alumni, staff and partner organizations support the education sector across the City but in some cases, might feel far removed from students. This is one way we stay connected to young ones and remind ourselves of who we are all here to serve. We’re excited to continue this partnership next year and bring in even more gifts for children in need across New York City,” said Marianne Nieman, Director of New York and Greater New Jersey at Education Pioneers.

“The holidays are a time for reflection and togetherness, and every family should get to enjoy that experience. I look forward to being able to affect the lives of young children in our communities. Giving is one of the best things we could do for ourselves and as well as others, making the communities we serve a better place,” said Greg HambricNYC Workforce Development Board Youth Committee member, and Community Action Board Chair. is thrilled to participate in DYCD’s Smiles of Love holiday gift drive. We hope the program brings holiday cheer to the young people currently engaged in DYCD-funded programs throughout The Bronx and the rest of New York City. We look forward to spending the day with participants and learning about their hopes, dreams and wishes for the new year!” said Anthony Ramirez II, co-Founder and CEO of Mainland Media and

“As a McDonald’s franchisee, giving back to my local community is a top priority—not only during the holiday season, but throughout the year. McDonald’s is proud to partner with the NYC Department of Youth and Community Development on this event by providing healthy dietary choices for all of the children who are participating today,” said Paul Hendel, a McDonald’s franchisee with restaurants located throughout the five boroughs and Long Island.

“It’s always an honor to be able to give; brightening the holidays for children in New York brings gratitude and immeasurable pride. I am humbled by the community and all the efforts of DYCD. Thank you for the opportunity,” said Tatum Turner, Operations and Events Manager at

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