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Nogales McDonald’s will feed, help 4,000 Mexican children Jan. 1

More than 4,000 children from low-income families in Mexico will receive a warm meal and a gift on New Year’s Day at a McDonald’s in Nogales, Ariz.

Gael Sylvia Pullen, and her husband, Mark, will host the second annual New Year’s Day celebration that began when they purchased three McDonald’s franchises in late 2007.

But the celebration isn’t new to the restaurant.

For 29 years former owner Jose Canchola brought hundreds of children from Nogales, Son., on Christmas Day to the McDonald’s on Mariposa Road and gave them toys and food.

The Pullens are “going off of that, but have expanded it to four times what it used to be and transformed it,” into their own family tradition, Gael Pullen said.

The celebration was moved to New Year’s Day to tie together Christmas and the “Dia de los Reyes,” or Day of the Three Kings, a Mexican tradition where children anxiously await waking up Jan. 6 to find toys and gifts left by the Reyes Magos, or wise men.

“This is the only time some of these kids will receive any gifts because of the difficult circumstances they live in, and it might even be hard for some Americans to comprehend how bad they really are,” Pullen said.

Kids will receive a “Happy Meal,” coats, toys, school supplies and fresh produce to take home to their families

Social workers from Mexico’s DIF, a government funded social service organization, selected the 4,000 children who will line up on the Mexican side of the border where buses will pick them up and take them to the McDonald’s.

“We’re working closely with Border Patrol and immigration officers, and 250 volunteers on both sides of the border and our fire department to make this possible,” Pullen said. “With so many kids we have to be really organized.”

The Pullens also included children in need on Nogales, Ariz., who will receive gifts once they return to school.

“Our family is committed to children on (both) Nogaleses and we’re going to do this every year,” Pullen said. “It’s truly wonderful to see the smiles on the children’s faces when they come here.”

This will be the 31st year children from Sonora cross the border for a warm meal and gifts at this McDonald’s.

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