PHOTOS: Socially distanced toy drive in Humboldt Park honors Three Kings Day

Each year, the Puerto Rican Cultural Center (PRCC) puts on a toy drive with donations from organizations like Toys for Tots, the Latin American Motorcycle Association (LAMA), and Ciclo Urbano (West Town Bikes).

SHARE PHOTOS: Socially distanced toy drive in Humboldt Park honors Three Kings Day
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The Three Wise Kings arrived to the toy drive promptly at 3p.m., followed by a caravan of motorcyclists and community members ready to give back in celebration of the holiday.

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Three Kings Day is celebrated in many parts of the world as the official end of the Christmas season, but in Humboldt Park, the Puerto Rican Cultural Center (PRCC) takes it one step further by bringing the Three Kings to the ‘hood.

In years past, families would bring their young children to the Humboldt Park Fieldhouse at 1440 N.HumboldtBlvd after the Three Kings Day parade would end, and the gift-giving would begin. Thousands of kids have received gifts over the last 26 years since the tradition began.

Due to COVID, this year PRCC worked hard to make sure that families were practicing social distancing and wearing masks before they approached the toy drive. Executive director José López was there ushering in children aged 0-12 and their families.

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In the late 70s, the Latin American Motorcycle Association (LAMA) began doing “toy rides” to collect items to distribute to families on Three Kings Day.

Xiomara Rodríguez, who manages social media for the PRCC, said that the organization has continued the tradition under its name alongside each of their partners. She remembers coming to the toy drives as a child.

“I feel like it’s paying it forward and that makes me really happy, especially with the pandemic. I think it’s just so important for us to be together and find ways for us to be together and still celebrate our traditions in a safe way,” said Rodríguez.

Vanessa Martínez said that she brought her five-year-old grandson Kayden Torres to the event simply because “we are Puerto Rican. Our tradition is [to celebrate] the Three Kings.”

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This year’s toy drive was the first ever held at the Puerto Rican Cultural Center’s new Mercado del Pueblo, located at 2559 W. Division St., a space for local vendors to have a place to set up shop and sell directly to the community at no cost.

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Dozens of families were waiting in a socially distanced line that went down Rockwell Street before the event kicked off at 3p.m.

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A volunteer helps a child pick out a brand new bicycle, donated from Ciclo Urbano (in English, West Town Bikes).

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This year, the PRCC limited gift-giving to the first 750 children to maintain a safe and socially distant event.

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“Vinimos porque somos Boricua y la tradición de nosotros son Los Reyes,” dijo Vanessa Martinez, la abuela de Kayden Torres, 5.

Kayden Torres, 5, accepts a gift as his grandmother Vanessa Martínez snaps a photo.

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Vice president Rick Silva (left) and business manager Jorge Beltrán (right) are members of the Latin American Motorcycle Association (LAMA), an organization that sponsors the toy drive each year. “The majority of people that give out gifts each year are from the motorcycle community,” said Silva. “We wanted to show that motorcycle people are not bad people.”

Ambi Colón/Sun-Times

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