The greatest gift of all

The greatest gift of all

The Charles Cherniss Tournament of Toys gives area kids joy on Christmas

By Carl Kozlowski 12/17/2013

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The holidays are a time when it’s easy to get so overwhelmed by the gift demands of family and friends that it’s easy to forget that some children have no one who can afford to get them any toys at all. That’s why the Charles Cherniss Tournament of Toys has been a blessing to poor Pasadena kids ever since the annual collection drive was started more than 30 years ago.

By combining its efforts with the Pasadena Jaycees’ Operation Santa, which has delivered presents to underprivileged area children since 1935, the Tournament will provide more than 3,000 children throughout the San Gabriel Valley with a truly memorable Christmas. Over 200 people come together each year on Christmas Eve to volunteer their time and deliver donated toys to local kids who sent request letters to Santa Claus. 

The event is named for the popular former Pasadena Star-News editor and columnist who stepped in to keep a toy drive going after Pasadena City Hall leaders banned a biker gang from hosting its own longtime toy drive in the Arroyo Seco over three decades ago. Turning the drive into a nonprofit organization, Cherniss and his wife Maggi established the tradition of accepting fully tax-deductible donations by check, as well as unwrapped toys which were handed over to Operation Santa. 
 
When Cherniss died 10 years ago, the Tournament of Toys was handed off to Star-News editor Larry Wilson, who has continued the impassioned tradition of helping as many kids as possible have a good Christmas morning. While the deadline for kids to drop off their request letters was Dec. 15, others can continue dropping gifts at the store through Monday night. 

“It’s hard to believe it’s been 10 years this year since Chuck died,” says Wilson. “I still think about him all the time and about what joy it gave him to have founded this great local charity. Join us as we continue its legacy.”  

The Charles Cherniss Tournament of Toys collects unwrapped toys and checks for kids at Patagonia Pasadena, 47 N. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena, during store hours of noon to 6 p.m. Sunday and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday. Call (626) 795-0319 or visit pasadenajaycees.org for information.

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