More than 1,500 children were expected stop by the event, hosted by San Francisco Fire Fighters Local 798 and the Department of Child Support Services.
That would be the most kids ever to participate in the giveaway, which is in its third year at City Hall but has been held for decades elsewhere in the city, said Karen Roye, director of child support services.
“With the economic downturn, there’s a lot of people we haven’t seen before,” Roye said.
More than 40,000 toys are being given away this year to young students, most of whom are from the city’s low-income neighborhoods, said Tom O’Connor, president of the firefighters’ union.
O’Connor said the union spends more than $200,000 a year on toys, and members worked through the weekend to meet a record number of applications to take part in this year’s event.
People applied by visiting their local firehouses or contacting the Department of Child Support Services, he said.
Firefighters “have been buying out every Toys ‘R’ Us” store in preparation for the event, and are mostly giving basketballs to the boys and Barbie dolls to the girls, O’Connor said.
“We spent about 18 hours Sunday blowing up basketballs,” he said.
Kenny Jamieson, a 20-year veteran of the department, dressed as Santa and greeted kids this morning in the rotunda of City Hall, which was decked out with a giant Christmas tree with holiday music playing throughout the building.
For a lot of the children, it is their first time visiting City Hall, and all the holiday decorations and cheer confused at least one of the kids, Roye said.
“A little boy came up to me and said, ‘Is this the North Pole?'” she said.
Darren Yee, 4, was among the children who came out to the event. His father, Allen, said Darren has come out to the event in past years and was “very excited” to see Santa again.
Roye said the excitement of the kids makes all the work in organizing the event worth it.
“We want them to know their government and that they’re loved,” she said.
Dan McMenamin, Bay City News