MCKINLEY PARK — Amidst holiday music and whiffs of hot cocoa and the Mexican drink atole, hundreds of giddy neighborhood kids jammed into the McKinley Park Field House Friday for the annual 12th Ward Toy Drive.
The event, now in its 11th year, offered local kids a chance to pick up a toy and visit with Santa on Friday.
Ochoa and Chavez Lopez were just two of the happy kids who picked up some holiday goodies — 4-year-old Ochoa got a toy truck, and Chavez, 2, brought home a doll. Both munched on cookies handed out by volunteers from the Southwest Side 12th Ward.
"It's fun coming to this," said their mother, Veronica Lopez, of Little Village. "They're really giving out toys that [the kids] like."
The event is hosted by Ald. George Cardenas (12th), whose stickers were pasted on the estimated 4,500 donated toys handed out at the park, 2210 W. Pershing Road.
"Sometimes when the community is struggling, this is really important," Cardenas said.