The First Annual Christmas Toy Drive hosted by the entertainment publicationi Phat Magazine drew celebrities and performances by L.A. area musicians to Sagebrush Cantina’s outdoor stage Wednesday night.
The event benefited Help the Children, a nonprofit with locations in Santa Clarita and Bell but with a reach that extends globally, providing food, toys, clothing, shelter, emergency supplies and medical care to 12 states in the U.S. and 52 countries worldwide.
“We feed 130,000 families a month in L.A. County, and that’s not even counting our disaster relief aid,” said the charity's director Michael Santomauro, the Santa Clarita facility’s only paid employee. Operating on a one percent overhead with no government funding, the charity relies heavily on events such as the toy drive, as well as donations.
Rated seven on Mainstreet's list of the top 20 charities in the U.S., Help the Children shares supplies with local charities, veterans’ families and women’s shelters, including two to three shipments a week of supplies to homeless shelters in Santa Clarita.
“We’re actually able to help families who have a significant need but don’t qualify for government programs,” said Santomauro.
Help the Children is also responsible for building ophanages and hospitals abroad. Last February, nearly two dozen students from Oaks Christian School in Westlake traveled to Guatemala to build a playground at a hospital the nonprofit established to address the lack of medical care for impoverished people.
Helping children in need is a cause close to the magazine owner’s heart. An L.A. resident who goes by his hip-hop handle 'Invincible,' he began Phat Magazine six months ago. Invincible not only organized the toy drive on behalf of Phat Inc., but also performed.
“Being an artist, also doing something positive can only be beneficial. It’s almost as if I have another way to reach kids, through music.” he said. “Being a kid growing up, there were a few years we had nothing. I always had it in the back of my mind that I want to give back."
Invicible says he’s already planning the theme of his next charity event: bullying.
In addition to his performance, hip-hop group Pre-Lit also took the stage as did several young aspiring actors, such as Camarillo resident Angie Loopshire, 10, who was joined at the event by her mother Jennifer Partmann.
“I thought that it would be a good starting place and a good cause,” said Loopshire, who brought with her a Scrabble board to donate.
Other celebrity appearances included Marabine Jaimes of Desperate Housewives fame, Lucha Libre pro-wrestler Rocky Romero, actor Sonny Valens whose credits include CSI and Freedom Writers, and several child actors like Preston Bailey, who plays the step-son of a serial killer on the hit show Dexter.
“It’s a good opportunity to meet people who desire to reach people who have less and we welcome the opportunity for people to meet us and find out what we’re all about,” said Santomauro. “... I really believe we don’t realize the direct impact we can have on another human being just by taking the time to reach out to them.”