For the past nine months, Eddie Nuñez of Sun Valley has been barely holding on. He was a maintenance worker at an indoor laser tag entertainment center and those businesses haven’t been able to open due to the coronavirus outbreak.
He’s depended on unemployment benefits.
“I’ve barely been able to keep up with the rent. I’m behind on the electricity,” said the father of four. “Hopefully with the tax (refund) and stimulus we’ll be able to catch up.”
But now at least Christmas will be a little brighter.
The Nuñez family was one of hundreds who received food, toys and gifts on Saturday, Dec. 19, during Yasiel Puig’s Wild Horse Children’s Foundation “Christmas Giveaway” at San Fernando’s Pioneer Park.
Car after car arrived at the park early that morning, and the attendees were greeted by carolers, Christmas music and even the big guy, Santa Claus, who posed for photos and spread cheer to the little ones on what turned into a sunny day.
Boys got trucks. Girls received dolls. There were food boxes of tamales and pan dulce for an entire family, and even diapers were provided for the youngest visitors.
A green screen allowed families to remain in their cars and pose for holiday photos they could later download online.
The special drive-through event brought plenty of smiles and wide-eyed joy to kids and parents who got to revel in the holiday festivities while remaining in their cars and practicing social distancing.
“This is wonderful. We love it. It’s been a crazy year and it’s nice to see we’re thought of,” said San Fernando resident Dixie Escobedo, who was among the first in line.
Benefiting Families During Pandemic
Lisette Carnet, executive director, said the foundation was able to benefit more than 1,000 families during the giveaway.
She noted that Puig, a former Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder who is currently playing for the Toros del Este in the Dominican Winter League in Dominican Republic, hasn’t played for the local team since 2018. “But his home and his heart are still here,” Carnet said.
That’s why the foundation — in association with Amazon, Chingon Bakery, Magaly’s Tamales, Rumble Entertainment and Union es La Fuerza (among others) — decided to bring some holiday joy to people given the current health pandemic.
“Even though these are difficult times, we’re still able to bring something unique to the families,” Carnet said.
She added that for many of these families, the food and the gifts may provide a small bridge to get them through hard times.
“It makes all the difference. There are families here who don’t have jobs. These [could be] the only presents they’re getting this year,” Carnet said.
“We wanted to give something. We wanted to show them that ‘we got you this time.’”
Puig’s Relationship with San Fernando
The Major League Baseball player, who has also played for the Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland, maintains a close relationship with the City of San Fernando and Pioneer Park. In fact, this is where “Puig’s House” will open in a renovated home next to the park that will offer after-school services for children and classes for parents.
The house is part of a revitalization effort for the entire park. Carnet said that project has been put on hold this year due to the pandemic, but the commitment remains.
“It’s going to open as soon as we have left COVID behind,” she said.
The foundation is currently focused on attending to the community’s present concerns by providing food to families, personal protective equipment to hospitals and — with events like the one here on Dec. 19 — giving away toys to keep kids entertained at home.
The families who came by the park truly appreciated the support.
“This is great. Even in these difficult times they were still able to make it special for the kids,” said happy recipient Cynthia Perez. “It’s been tough, but we’re hanging in there.”
“This is the best,” chimed in Melanie, 9, another visitor, who along with sisters Leilani, 5, and Delilah, 4, got to spend a few precious moments talking to Santa from the window of their parent’s vehicle.
For his part, Nuñez, who admits to being “stressed out” by the fact that he can’t work, said he was glad he decided to show up for his first giveaway.
“This is awesome. We could all use some help right now,” he said.