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|Toy Party celebrates 10 years with ‘Cirque de Jouets’|
|by Ryan Lee|
|November 23, 2012 00:00|
Downtown Atlanta will be more bustling than Santa’s workshop on Dec. 2, as thousands of LGBT Atlantans turn out for the 10th annual Toy Party at AmericasMart #3.
For more than a decade, the Toy Party has allowed LGBT locals and an increasing number of heterosexuals to play Santa’s elves by donating holiday gifts for underprivileged children in Atlanta.
“It’s amazing how every year it gets bigger and bigger,” says Nick Gold, a member of the advisory board of For The Kid in All of Us, the volunteer non-profit that organizes Toy Party. “It’s amazing to see, and we expect maybe as many as 5,000 people will attend the Toy Party this year.”
For the Kid was founded to elevate what had been a small holiday party hosted by Alex Wan, who asked guests to bring a gift for charity. Since then, Wan has been elected to the Atlanta City Council, more than 35,000 toys have been collected for local charities and the Toy Party has become a gem of gay Atlanta.
“What began a decade ago as a house party where everyone brought an unwrapped toy has grown into one of the ‘must attend’ events of the season,” says Alison Hall, For the Kid board president.
The event “ensures that underprivileged kids in our community have a gift on Christmas morning,” Hall says.
The number of agencies that receive gifts from Toy Party has grown to two dozen in 2012. They range from HIV/AIDS organizations like Jerusalem House and AID Atlanta, to elementary schools and churches, to groups that support homeless youth and those with developmental disabilities.
“Once all of the toys are collected on Dec. 2 from Toy Party, they get re-distributed later in the month, just in time for Christmas,” Gold says. “So the kids that are connected to these charities will have a gift to open on Christmas morning.”
As the Toy Party has grown, so has the cost of producing such a grand event. This year’s party marks the first time For the Kid will charge a $5 cover charge in addition to a gift.
“Last year, the admission price was an unwrapped toy valued at $25 or more, and this year the gift needs to be $20 or more, and then also a $5 donation to help defray the costs of the event,” Gold says. “It kind of works out about the same.”
For the Kid is also introducing tiered options for attending the Toy Party: the general admission of a gift and $5, an Ultra Lounge admission that offers “a little piece of the VIP experience” for $50 and an unwrapped toy, and a full-blown VIP that costs $250 and an unwrapped toy.
The general admission area will include the beats of DJ Vicki Powell and entertainment inspired by Cirque du Soleil in honor of the theme of this year’s Toy Party, “Cirque de Jouets,” which is French for “toy.”
The Ultra Lounge will be situated within the main ballroom, but will rescue attendees from the Toy Party’s legendary drink lines by offering private bars and wait staff.
The extra generous elves who opt for the VIP ticket will have access to an open bar in a private area, with an exhibition by performance painter David Garibaldi. The new-age artist who creates pop portraits to an accompanying song made it to the finals of the most recent season of “America’s Got Talent,” as he and his entourage, David Garibaldi and his CMYKs, awed audiences and judges with their rapid-rhythm paintings of Mick Jagger, Albert Einstein and the Statue of Liberty.
The suggested price of gifts for admission to Toy Party has risen over the years, from the early days of a $10 gift for access to an open bar, to the $20 gift and tickets from $5 to $250.
But many attendees go much further than the recommended gift price, buying bicycles, video game systems and other big-ticket toys. In addition to the 35,000 toys and gifts cards donated at Toy Party over the years, For the Kid has also raised more than $470,000 for local charities through Toy Party and its summer event, Backpack in the Park.
Top photo: Toy Party, created by For the Kid in All of Us, has collected more than 35,000 toys over the last decade to make the holidays happier for under-privileged children. (Photo by Brent Corcoran/RNZ Photography)
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