CHATHAM — A weeklong toy drive spearheaded by a third-grader from Pill Hill ended with a Christmas party Saturday where 593 toys were collected for New York kids affected by Hurricane Sandy.
While 9-year-old Samuel Love didn't meet his goal of collecting 3,000 toys, a special guest from Gary, Ind., took notice of the boy's efforts.
"My mother called me this morning (Saturday) to tell me I need to step up my game because someone else named Samuel Love was doing great things," said 35-year-old Samuel Love, who teaches American Government at Westwood College in Chicago and traveled to Josephine's Cooking, 436 E. 79th St., to meet young Samuel. "This young man has inspired me to go out and do something good to help others."
Both Loves found themselves answering when someone would say, "Hey, Sam."
The toys collected will be shipped to the Salvation Army in New York by Wednesday for distribution to needy kids, said Samuel's father, Victor Love.
"This has been a true experience of giving and sacrifice for my son," Victor Love said. "I try to teach these things to all three of my children. I am so proud of Sam."
The shipment of toys to New York will include $3,000 worth of toys made by LeapFrog. The toy-maker agreed to donate products to the toy drive.
Samuel and his father traveled to New York on Thursday and appeared on the daytime talk show, "Anderson Live." Anderson Cooper, host of the show, said he learned about Samuel's toy drive after reading about it on DNAinfo.com.
"We have gotten a lot of exposure from DNAinfo.com and we really appreciate it," Victor Love said.
The idea for a toy drive came to Samuel while he was watching TV footage of Hurricane Sandy.
"All I could think about is how bad Christmas would be this year for kids in New York because of the hurricane," said Samuel, who enjoys listening to Michael Jackson music and playing video games. "God has always blessed me to have a good Christmas, so this year I wanted to be a blessing to someone else."
"My family attends Salem, and through my church and my dad I have learned that giving to someone less fortunate makes a difference in their lives and minds," added Samuel.