Bronx Zoo kicks off holiday toy and hurricane relief drive

Bronx Zoo kicks off holiday toy and hurricane relief drive
(back, l-r) Deputy Borough President Aurelia Greene with WCS executive vice president for Public Affairs John Calvelli and students from P.S. 205 ceremoniously tossed the first toy donations into the drop off box at the Holiday Toy Drive kick off event at the Bronx Zoo.
Community News Group/Sarah Valenzuela

Lions, tigers, bears and a free trip to the zoo!

The Bronx Zoo and the Borough President’s office kicked off their annual holiday toy drive for military veteran families on Thursday, November 9.

This year, the zoo has implemented a new aspect to their drive.

As several hurricane relief drop off locations stopped accepting supplies, the Bronx Zoo, along with the other Wildlife Conservation Society wildlife parks within New York City, have begun asking for donations for the relief effort.

These donations will be sent over to the New York City Hurricane Relief Center in east Harlem.

In return for donating supplies or toys, the zoo wants to thank New Yorkers for their contributions and generosity during the holiday season by giving away a free ticket to the Bronx Zoo or the New York Aquarium.

“We feel a certain responsibility to give back to the community,” said John Calvelli, the executive vice president of Public Affairs at the Bronx Zoo. “It’s part of who we are and what we do.”

There are an estimated 30,000 people who have come to New York City because of the damages caused by this year’s hurricane season. As a result, a Hurricane Relief Center was opened to assist those staying in New York City either long- or short-term.

“It’s heartbreaking to see that we now have people, displaced people, in our own country that are coming from Florida and Texas and Puerto Rico,” Calvelli added. “If we can do a little something through our network of institutions and through the wonderful people who care so much about us, hopefully we can give a little something back to these people that are suffering.”

The holiday toy drive is an annual tradition between the borough president and the Bronx Zoo to collect new, unwrapped toys and gift them to local veterans and active-duty members of the military and their families.

The launch for this year’s drive happened right in time for Veteran’s Day weekend and included donations from the students of P.S. 205.

“These are times to be grateful for what you do have,” Deputy Borough President Aurelia Greene said in her remarks during the event launch.

Greene has helped launch the toy drive on behalf of the borough president over the last several years.

“It’s a way to give back,” Greene continued. “It’s a way to say thank you to the residents of the Bronx, the veterans and to let them know how much we appreciate the sacrifices they and their family have made on behalf of our country.”

Hurricane relief supplies will continue to be collected at all five Wildlife Conservation Society wildlife parks until November 24 and all donations should be dropped off directly to the WCS facilities and not to the Hurricane Relief Center.

The city and WCS have specifically asked for new baby food, infant formula, diapers and school supplies.

Toys for the borough president’s Holiday Toy Drive, however, will be collected until December 31.

Reach Reporter Sarah Valenzuela at (718) 260-4584. E-mail her at

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