DIX HILLS, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Christmas came early for some youngsters on Long Island.
The Marines from Toys For Tots had lots of goodies for an organization that’s building social bridges for autistic children.READ MORE: 80-Year-Old Man Struck By Stray Bullet In South Bronx
As CBS2’s Tracee Carrasco reported, it was a holiday celebration of sights and sounds.
A spinning colorful play world filled the headquarters of peer pals in Nassau County, as pre-kindergarten kids delighted in sensory toys of all kinds.
The non-profit center for autistic children opened just a few months ago in Oyster Bay. It didn’t have any toys, but now it has $20-thousand worth, thanks to Marines like Staff Sergeant J.D. Quinton who volunteers for its Toys For Tots outreach.
“Why do I do it? Because it brings a joy to me, because growing up I didn’t have an opportunity to have a new unwrapped toy,” SSgt Quinton said.
The Marines chose interactive toys with lots of sound and bright lights — providing a touch and feel experience that has proven therapeutic benefits for anyone diagnosed with autism.
“A lot of times when you have kids on a spectrum it’s easy to feel isolated,” Chris Ostuni said.READ MORE: Police: 71-Year-Old Woman's Hair Pulled, Head Punched At Herald Square Subway Station
Ostuni and his wife Lisa have three autistic children including 4-year-old Joey. They’re one of 200 families who’ve joined up for get-togethers that unite their kids with non-autistic children their own age.
“Our program matches children for play dates in their own neighborhood as well as group play dates,” Julie Keffer, Peer Pals, explained.
Keffer said it’s helping the autistic, yet talented youngsters integrate into the wider community.
“It’s also very important for typical children to meet children who aren’t like them, and that’s okay too, they can still be friends,” Keffer said.
The mother of 5-year-old Remy said the play dates have turned her into a social butterfly.
“She loves playing with other kids, older and younger kids and toys, what’s not to love?” Susan Ackerman said.
Toys, these folks say will now help spread love and understanding this holiday season.MORE NEWS: Stimulus Check Latest: Is A Fourth Relief Payment Coming?
The organization relies on public donations and their play date services are free.