While wrapping paper spilled out of trash cans and flittered across tabletops, Raudel Pena held something unusual: a present that was still firmly wrapped.
The 7-year-old was about the only one who decided to save his gift and open it on Christmas morning.
Most of the other 800 or so children who came to the East End Skating Rink Thursday night eagerly tore into their free gifts, shredding paper and smiling all the while. Some got Barbie dolls, others got Spider-Man puzzles, still others got Legos. And a few who enjoyed showing off their dance moves even got new bikes.
Angeles Unidos -- "Angels United" -- was all made possible through the efforts of volunteers and sponsors, who made certain that all these children -- virtually all Hispanic and underprivileged -- had at least one gift for Christmas.
"Every child gets a toy, regardless of their documentation status. We don't care. We don't ask for IDs," said Maria Castro, one of the organizers. "Every child that comes in here deserves a toy."
Since this program began four years ago, the organizers have given more than 2,500 gifts to children. Castro estimated that this year's toy drive cost about $5,000.
The cost seemed immaterial compared with the smiles. Jonathan Nunex opened a new soccer ball, and proclaimed it "very nice." Cristian Miranda wowed the crowd with his interpretation of "Gangnam Style," winning himself a brand new "Cars"-themed bike in the process.
Jessica Salazar, 8, also won a bike by showing off her best dance moves.
Her bike, though, was made for a girl, with low-slung bars and bright pink colors.
She was happy about that, since she has two young brothers who also like riding bikes.
When asked if that pink color might ward them off, leaving her to ride her bike in peace, she nodded vigorously.
Distributed by MCT Information Services
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