By Jennifer Hilton, Director of Training and Technology Transfer
In 2021, a dream started in the week before Thanksgiving when a group of my friends from high school got together for a Friendsgiving celebration. You see, we all went to a rough high school and most of them grew up in a tough neighborhood in Las Vegas known to many as “Box Town.” We all still managed to get out and do well for ourselves. That night, these guys got to reminiscing about how we wouldn’t be who or where we are without the neighborhood that we grew up in and how they wanted to give back. So, an idea was born, the Giving Back to Box Town block party. Last year’s first ever event should have taken months to organize between permits, insurance, procurement, and sponsorships, but instead came together in just three weeks with the help of our community. On the day of, we had giveaways of brand-new clothing, toys, and children’s bikes as well as free food from local restaurants, three bounce houses, a DJ, a car show with 50 entries, and more!
This year, they decided early to make it an annual event and continue to make it bigger and better. So, we started planning early with a few months of fundraising and organizing. With WestCare Nevada as one of their major supporters to guide them through the planning process, the attendance doubled! Over 800 kids got to see Santa that day and receive toys from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD) Bolden Area Command.
Over 100 classic cars lined the street from five different car clubs that volunteered their time. The Veterans Tribute Career & Technical Academy High School’s JROTC conducted the flag ceremony to help open the festivities. With DJ Hank and KLD Productions volunteering all day providing free music and announcements, the party vibes kept up throughout the event. The UFC donated new clothing and shoes for over 500 adults. Food was provided by three local food truck vendors that grew up in the neighborhood: Gravy Girl, Los Munchies, and Taco Guys. The big draw after Santa was the real-life heroes, though, the City of Las Vegas Fire Department Engine 103. Kids were excited when they got to watch it leave with lights flashing and sirens blaring for a real-life call. Finally, were the SWAT officers who were there with two very cool armored vehicles. Their team was all smiles.
This event started as a simple idea about giving back and grew into community prevention and intervention work – giving the neighborhood the chance to see those who they often only see in the worst of moments. But, on this day, they saw them in the brightest of times. It was a day of light and joy that can help carry people through till next year when we do it all over again!