Toys for Joys organizers (photo: courtesy Toys for Joys)
Note: This story originally appeared in the Nov/Dec 2013 issue of Boston Spirit magazine.
by Scott Kearnan
If Santa Claus was gay, his Christmas party might look like this.
Picture it: piles of toys and holiday gifts stacked high, overflowing from cutesy red wagons, covered in every color of wrapping paper and ready for delivery to kids of all ages — from toddler girls to teenage boys. They’ve been assembled by hundreds of guests who now surround the haul, laughing and chatting, mingling and clinking glasses as they ring in the holiday season. Most of the gift givers, reflecting the constituency of the event organizers, also happen to be gay.
This is Toys for Joys. And if we can offer a suggestion: save one gift for the group itself, because this year it celebrates its fifth official birthday.
“We identified a need, and now we do everything we can to help,” says James Rifino, the founder of Toys for Joys, which officially received 501c3 status this year.
The group has its roots in a small Christmas party held at Rifino’s home back in 2002, when an intimate group of guests brought toys and gifts to donate to needy kids via the Boston Housing Authority. But it wasn’t until 2007 that Rifino and his board of fellow gay professionals truly created a model for the kind of large-scale public bash it has become today.
The Toys for Joys celebration now attracts over 500 attendees annually, and has brought in nearly 10,000 toys for half a dozen different organizations: from the Multicultural AIDS Coalition to United South End Settlements.
This year’s event on Saturday, December 14 will mark Toys for Joys’ first at the Black Falcon cruise terminal in the Seaport, a move designed to accommodate the always-growing event.