Dec. 14, 2023 By Anthony Medina
Officers from the 102nd Precinct and members of the Detective Brian “Smiles” Simonsen Foundation gifted thousands of toys to children in Richmond Hill during their Holiday Spectacular Toy Drive event on Tuesday, Dec. 12.
Families lined up in front of the 102nd Precinct station house, located at 87-34 118th St., well before the event’s start at 5 p.m. The line of parents and children stretched up 118th Street to Jamaica Avenue as they waited for their chance to enjoy the holiday festivities, pick up a toy, and take photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus.
In addition to gifts and photo opportunities, the Merry Hot Chocolate Coco Bar pop-up, popcorn, and cotton candy were made available for families who braved the cold temperatures to celebrate the season of giving.
Christmas-themed music also pumped throughout the block and gave kids more of a reason to burn off energy. A carefully placed snow machine sprinkled the crowd as partygoers participated in the festivities and gave even more reason to welcome the Christmas spirit.
“I really like this event. I think the fact they’re doing this is very nice because they’re taking into account the community,” said Johanna Nilasco, a Richmond Hill native.
This year’s toy drive also pays tribute to the life of NYPD Det. Brian Simonsen, a 19-year NYPD veteran who was shot and killed due to friendly fire while in the line of duty on Feb. 12, 2019. Foundation members handed out toys and provided much-needed help to bring the event together, in collaboration with the 102nd Precinct.
Leanne Simonsen, wife of the late Det. Simonsen, said she knew he was smiling down on them Tuesday night. Det. Simonsen spent his entire career at the 102nd Precinct and the foundation’s mission remains focused on keeping Simonsen’s legacy alive through doing good deeds and spreading smiles.
“This has actually been like a big goal of mine to get involved with the Richmond Hill community, because it was Brian’s second home,” Leanne said. “And like I say, kids just gravitated toward Brian and he was so good with kids, so this just warms me. I know he’s smiling down on this event.”
The event drew some of the NYPD’s top brass, alongside the 102nd Precinct commanding officer Deputy Inspector Jeremy R. Kivlin. For instance, Chief Kevin Williams, the commanding officer of Queens South, was in attendance.
State Sen. Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr, also paid a visit to the Richmond Hill station house and shared his appreciation for the precinct and what it provides the community during the holidays.
“For children who unfortunately may not experience a full Christmas, hopefully, this adds to it.,” Addabbo said. “That’s why I always love these kinds of events and for the precinct to do it, I really appreciate it because the relationship the precinct has with the community is fantastic.”
As the toy giveaway was coming to a close, the tables that were previously overflowing with toys two hours before the event’s start were bare. Despite the 7 p.m. end time, there were still people waiting in line. The music had stopped playing, and the hot chocolate bar was packed-up, but toy drive participants persisted in distributing the remaining toys left to give away.