People waited in line for as long as seven hours in wind chill readings as low as 19 degrees below zero to pick up donated toys for their children and grandchildren the morning of Christmas Eve.
Academy Award-winning actress and singer Jennifer Hudson, a Chicago native, hosted her fifth annual toy drive at the Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center Chicago in the West Pullman neighborhood. Robinette Williams, a spokeswoman for the Julian D. King Gift Foundation, said the organization expected to serve 6,000 children from across the Chicago area.
The foundation honors the memory of Hudson's nephew, who was murdered in 2008. Julian King, 7, along with Hudson's mother, Darnell Donerson, and brother, Jason Hudson, were shot and killed. William Balfour, Hudson's former brother-in-law, was convicted of the murders and sentenced in 2012 to three life sentences.
Volunteers handed out thousands of toys to parents and their children beginning at 10 a.m. Tuesday, but some said the long wait in the cold wasn't worth it. The people first in line arrived at 2:30 in the morning, Williams said.
Sheila Green, who arrived around 6 a.m. wearing snow pants, three jackets and four pairs of socks, was gathering presents for six children. But with the bitter cold and a large crowd of impatient people, she said she sent the kids home and counted down the hours solo. Unfortunately, she said she was allowed to get gifts for only three of the children without them present. She walked out with two Razor scooters and a small red bicycle with training wheels.
"It was worth the wait," Green said as she waited outside the east exit for a relative who had fallen behind her in line, "but it was so disorganized."
Several families were separated, and some children lost their parents, as the large crowd pushed past one another into the entrance once the building opened, Green said.
Denesha Dunigan, a mother of two young boys, got in line at 5 a.m., hoping to not miss out on the opportunity for free bikes. The boys got their bikes, a red one and a green one. Damarrion Holmes, 10, and Datayvion Holmes, 5, said they were glad to have the bikes, but the family waited impatiently in the cold for a relative to pick them up.
"My toes are frozen," Dunigan said. "It wasn't worth the wait for me."
Later in the morning, some CTA buses arrived to help keep the masses warm as they waited their turn to go inside and collect toys such as bikes, skateboards, iPod docks, Rainbow Looms and basketballs. Every child got a book and a teddy bear in addition to one other toy, Williams said. Technology startup Uber, Tribune-owned WGN-TV and Blue Cross Blue Shield donated toys, she said.
Hudson was not available for comment Tuesday.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun