James Brown toy giveaway helps about 570 children

(Featured photo: Members of the Rosa T. Beard Debutante Club give a bag of gifts to a family at the James Brown Toy Giveaway Dec. 16, 2023. Charmain Z. Brackett/Augusta Good News)

Families began arriving at the James Brown Arena well before sunrise to receive toys as part of the annual James Brown Family Foundation Toy Giveaway, which started at 8 a.m. Dec. 16.

Some of the toys distributed at the James Brown Toy Giveaway. Charmain Z. Brackett/Augusta Good News

On the arena floor were tables of gifts and rows of bicycles divided according to age. Children 11 years old and younger received three age-appropriate toys or a bicycle, with only one bicycle per household.

About 570 children were registered for the event, said Deanna Brown-Thomas, the daughter of the late singer and the foundation’s president.

That number is more than in previous years.

“Everything is so expensive,” she said. “Kids don’t understand you’ve got bills you’ve got to pay. They just know it’s Christmas time, and they want toys.”

Children had received a wrist band with a number when they checked in. As Brown-Thomas called sets of numbers, the families moved through the line, received their toys and exited the building.             

Volunteers painted children’s faces at the James Brown Toy Giveaway Dec. 16. Charmain Z. Brackett/Augusta Good News

While children waited for their numbers to be called to receive their toys, they could have their faces painted, take photos with Santa or superheroes or jump in a bounce house.

Brown-Thomas called the morning bittersweet.

“This is the first one we’ve done inside since 2019, and it’s the last one in this arena,” she said.

 She said the toy giveaway is a labor of love. Like the families waiting to receive gifts, she too arrived well before sunrise to ensure everything was in place, but it’s also hard for other reasons. Her father died Christmas Day 2006.

“I don’t necessarily look forward to Christmas. I really don’t, but I know we’re doing what he would be doing if he was here,” she said.

Santa visits with children. Charmain Z. Brackett/Augusta Good News

Charmain Z. Brackett, the publisher of Augusta Good News and Inspiring: Women of Augusta, has covered Augusta’s news for 35 years. Reach her at Sign up for the newsletter here.

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