Posted by: Michelle Stella Riordan | May 18, 2011

The Atlantic County Toys for Kids Program…

The Atlantic County Toys for Kids Program


Charity begins in the home…

That’s what I was always told.  Over 20 years ago (I still can’t say it without stuttering!), I met my long time friend, Greg.  Greg worked at the Atlantic County Department of Public Safety.  He collected used toys to clean up and give to the officers having a rough time making ends meet during the holidays.  Greg thought, as I did, that no child should go without something to open for Christmas.  I was drafted.  I was drafted because I remember how hard my divorced mom worked for us 3 kids to make us happy.  I knew that even if I didn’t have a lot of money to donate, I did have time. 

Greg and his wife started having a Christmas party for the other officers.  All were welcome.  The food was free.  But, donate a new toy for the program.  What a hit.  (Remember, we’re talking 20 years ago).  The party grew so large that he had to rent the local fire station hall for all the people to come out.  We even had Santa come and take photos with the kids.  Guess who the photographer was? 

Here was the program in a nutshell:  Have a Christmas party at the beginning of December, sort the toys and then donate all the toys.  Oh, let’s add going to the local hospital, woman’s shelter and nursing home.  We were burning out quick.  It left little time what with us working full-time (and then some for the holidays) and we had our families to shop for, decorate and enjoy the holiday. 

So, one summer, I thought…’Hey, let’s have a Christmas in July Party’.  We can barbeque, have games and it’s less stressful for everyone; us and people donating toys.  That little idea took us to the next level.  Our block party was such a huge success that the city asked us to move it to Linwood’s Bike Path for all the residents to come out.  It would mean more parking for people.  We were able to host a huge block party with games, food, a bouncer, rock climbing wall and music.  Yes….CHRISTMAS MUSIC in July.  We even had port a potties.  We were big time.  We couldn’t have done it without the support of many individual volunteers, the community and some remarkable sponsors.  We had tents, a magician (Chad Juros), the ACFD Sandpipers, and Mack N Manco Pizza! 


The price of admission:  NEW, UNWRAPPED TOYS.  You could stay, eat and play all afternoon.  We had food, beverages and raffles.  I forgot the best part…SANTA came in on a fire truck.  The kids LOVED it!  Guess who did photos with Santa?

Me presenting Greg with a plaque for 20 years of service.

 Poor Greg.  He was at one end of the block party filling up ice buckets, dealing with party crashers and I was at the other end juggling the games and I never answered my radio.  We hated each other that day.  I even threatened to deck him one year…but didn’t do it.  The heat makes you crazy.  It took us over 2 months of planning, marketing and fundraising.  It took 12 hours of set up, organizing and clean up for a 4 hour block party.  We barely had time to eat and enjoy it but when we saw that we had collected hundreds upon hundreds of new toys, it was all worth it. 

 Atlantic County Toys for Kids Program Christmas in July Block Party,

ACFD Sandpipers

So, what next?  We gave up the block party after 9 years.  I’m not getting any younger and it was time to step out of the box.  So along came…


Atlantic County Toys for Kids Program Dolphin Cruise,


All Aboard…AC Cruises for the dolphin watch.

The Atlantic County Toys for Kids Program is now a 365/24/7 charity.  We collect NEW, UNWRAPPED TOYS all year-long.  Toys are given to local municipalities to hand out when there is a family crisis.  Toys are distributed before Christmas to area; hospitals, nursing homes (seniors love receiving stuffed animals), woman’s shelter, and to various organizations that assist in the distribution.  We are here in the community to help those in the little ways we can.  That’s what makes Atlantic County, New Jersey the most amazing place to live. 

Atlantic County Toys for Kids Program,

Dockside food and activities with the best elves Santa could lend.

Our website has our up to date calendar of events (most of the time), a list of our time-tested and true blue sponsors and years of photos from our events.  You can even make a donation. 

This is the longest blog post I will probably ever write but it cannot even come close to all I can tell you about the Kid’s Program.  Really.  And if you talk to Greg about it, you’re doomed.  He’s like a pit bull chasing after a bone marrow. 

Atlantic County Toys for Kids Program,

Training a new crew of elves…

A short list of our events:

Easter Paws,  Veteran’s Events, Distribution Day, Water Wednesdays at AC Outlets/The Walk, Harry Hurley Golf Open, Dolphin Watch Cruise, Christmas in July Cruise (Adults only).  We are working on something so awesome but it’s TOP SECRET.  I’ll let you know once we’ve cemented the details.

Please join us for the Annual Dolphin Watch Cruise:!/event.php?eid=224126297604126

Saturday May 28, 2011 about AC Cruises    

Historic Gardiner’s Basin- New Hampshire  Avenue, Atlantic City, NJ

$25.00 includes lunch and activities

Dockside activities 11:30AM-12:20PM  Boarding at 12:30PM

Cruise: 1:00PM-3:00PM

 Atlantic County Toys for Kids Program,

Flipper….Is that you?


What do you do for Charity?


Michelle Stella Riordan

Photography By Exposure

Twitter: M_RiordanPBE



Special Events Photographer

Corporate, Portfolios, Aerial and Family Portraits

Studio and Location services:  New Jersey to Virginia

Family Beach Portraits

Special Events Photographer



  1. It was uncharacteristically long, but worth reading every word!

    • What a great blog about the TFK Program. Your the best Michelle~

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