He pitches in $1,500 for security at event that draws 8,000
Adilene Martinez, 3, gets a stuffed toy dog from Santa during the Miracle on 31st Christmas Party at the Tucson Rodeo Grounds.
A last-minute present from a 10-year-old boy gave thousands of area youngsters something to smile about Wednesday.
David Martinez ensured the annual Miracle on 31st Street Christmas party would go on by donating $1,500 to help pay for security at the event.
Organizer Ramon Gonzales was left scrambling when the agency that normally provides security for the holiday gift giveaway at the Tucson Rodeo Grounds backed out Tuesday.
The city would not allow the event – in its 38th year – to take place without security, Gonzales said.
Hiring off-duty Tucson police officers would cost about $1,200, Gonzales said, but all the funds raised for the event had already been spent on toys.
Enter David, who – though he had already donated $4,000 in toys this year (and $5,000 last Christmas) – provided another $1,500 Tuesday to pay for security.
“This whole party can happen because of that little boy,” Gonzales said.
How a 10-year-old could afford to pay thousands of dollars for security and presents will remain a Christmas mystery, however, because David and his family declined to discuss the donations.
Two police motor officers worked the event while on duty, which meant there was no charge for their services, said Officer Charles Rydzak, a Tucson Police Department spokesman.
And three off-duty officers worked the approximately nine-hour event for $35 an hour each, he said.
“TPD stepped up to bat so the event could go ahead,” he said.
Kids began lining up in the predawn chill at 5:30 a.m. to wait for Santa, who arrived by helicopter shortly after 10 a.m.
Adilene Martinez, 3, and her 2-year-old brother, Javier, were among the first to arrive.
Wearing Bratz shoes and a Barbie sweater, Adilene munched on a hot dog and chips during the wait. Though eager to see Santa, she was tired from getting up so early.
“She was the first one up this morning,” said her father, Angel Martinez. “She really wants to see Santa.”
When her turn came to see St. Nick, Adilene sat on his lap. She left with a big grin on her face, clutching a Care Bear, fashion phone and an astronaut Barbie.
Seven-year-old Alondra Sandoval eagerly awaited her turn to sit on Santa’s lap.
“I’m going to tell him to come to our house and give us lots of presents,” she said.
Food at the event was supplied by Silver Saddle Steak House, which provided chili dogs, chips, sodas and bottled water for the crowd.
Owner Orlando Alva said his restaurant has participated in the event for 23 years.
“As long as Ramon throws this party we’ll be there,” he said. “It’s for the kids. It’s the least we can do to give back.”
Live music and a display of motorcycles and lowriders helped entertain the partygoers.
By the time festivities were were winding down at 2:30 p.m., far more than last year’s total of 8,000 children had received toys, Gonzales said.
Collecting enough toys was again a last-minute scramble, said Gonzales, a retired sheet metal worker.
On Dec. 17, only 700 toys were on hand, he said, but more than 8,000 were collected in the final week of the drive.
“All of a sudden, all these people were knocking on the door. The phone never stopped ringing,” Gonzales said. “Toys for Tots gave us more than 6,000 toys.”
At 1:45 p.m. Wednesday, two trucks filled with toys collected by the Marine Corps Reserve for the Toys for Tots effort arrived at the Rodeo Grounds, destined for area kids. Toys for Tots had been desperate for donations itself this year. But earlier this week car dealer Jim Click donated $25,000 to the drive.
“Every year, the community comes through with the toys, and this year they did,” Gonzales said.
“Thanks to all people who supported this party for years and years and years.”
Gonzales has organized Miracle on 31st Street all 38 years of its existence.
He began throwing the party for a few children in his neighborhood and family in the 400 block of West 31st Street, hence the name.
He hopes Miracle reaches its 40th anniversary, and maybe more.
“God willing, I’ll try for two more years,” he said. “Why not dedicate one day a year to these kids?”
Some of the thousands of kids who lined up to see Santa. Miracle on 31st Street organizers saw to it that more than 8,000 kids received holiday toys and food. Event founder Ramon Gonzales said the turnout was the largest in the 38 years the party has been held.
Alexis Camargo, 4 months old, came dressed like Santa.
Adilene Martinez with her toy dog