NORTH pHILADELPHIA (WTXF) - It’s called Operation Brotherly Love and at Temple University’s Liacouras Center, where Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, former Eagles Brian Dawkins and hundreds of volunteers helped spread holiday cheer to more than 600 families Sunday.
Call it joyous, controlled chaos. 1,700 kids inside the Liacouras Center. Operation Brotherly Love on a mission to make it clear to each and every child, from all corners of the city, that they are loved and cared for by a greater community.
Before attending her first event in 2017, at the insistence of her Police Athletic League officer, 13-year-old Makaya was bullied.
“It makes you feel like no one is there for you,” Makaya said.
She found a world in which she was valued and safe. It was only one day, but it taught her so much.
“They told us about how you can be confident with yourself. And, I stuck with that and now I don’t get bullied anymore and I speak up,” Makaya stated.
Mom Victoria is grateful.
“Let them know there’s other children that may have hardship like them, but we’re all here and family,” said mom Victoria Ogunyemi.
“You have police officers coming out together with the children and coordinating with the parents, so it’s not too often we get the entire family together and we get to bond and fellowship with them,” Captain Jarreau Thomas, with the Police Athletic League, said.
The event, a labor of love from Wawa, partnering with the city, police and so many others who agree the key is the one-on-one interaction between volunteers who really want to be here, and the families who sense that.
For Makaya and so many other kids, the fun and entertainment out on the arena floor are exciting but they cannot wait to get their brand new winter coats handed out by Operation Warm. Such a small thing, but something these kids have been looking forward to.
“As soon as we got here, ‘When are we going to get coats, Miss?’ And, I’m like, ‘Come here and enjoy the fun and we’ll get the coats later,’” said volunteer Deanna Derry.
Cofounder Adam Schall says the carnival and holiday pep rally lives up to its name of Brotherly Love.
“We found the right formula. There’s a lot of people in need, there’s a lot of people who want to help. We build the bridge,” Adam Schall said.