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The season of giving

Event benefits 45 children

YOUNGSTOWN — A Christmas giveaway benefiting dozens of local children almost didn’t happen this year.

However, thanks to local businessman Ron Zoldan and the founder of a local nonprofit, Christmas came early for approximately 45 low-income children from the inner city over the weekend.

Juanita Thompson said she has worked with children for several years as a community cheer coach and by mentoring girls ages 4 to 12 through her organization, Little Miss Inner Beauty, which focuses on character building. She hosted her first Christmas giveaway last year with support from family and friends, but wasn’t sure how she would pull off the event this year without a major sponsor.

She contacted Zoldan, vice president of Phantom Fireworks, the week before Christmas last year, but he said it was too late for him to support the effort. The pair stayed in touch throughout the year, and he bought the presents for Sunday’s giveaway at the Jaylex Event Center on the South Side and took over fundraising efforts to ensure the giveaway continues for years to come.

“Mr. Zoldan’s support was more than financial. He was very hands-on and he showed a genuine desire to make it a great Christmas for the families and put a smile on the children’s faces. I couldn’t have done it without him,” Thompson said.

Zoldan also provided the food, which was prepared by Chrystal Catering.

Star Wilson of Youngstown, a single mom of seven, said the event made her feel special, noting she had not been out with her children in a long time.

“It was my desire and dream to make the families feel special, and his donations and involvement made it happen. We were able to support families with special needs, grandparents caring for their grandchildren and single parents, to name a few. His kindness and personable demeanor was noted by all of the guests,” Thompson said of Zoldan.

However, Zoldan said Thompson deserved the credit.

He said Thompson reached out to various organizations and agencies to find the children who the giveaway supported, including the Rescue Mission, Salvation Army and the Community Corrections Association.

Each child received a pair of Nike tennis shoes, which were provided by NBA player LeBron James, who Zoldan knows personally. They also received one or two other gifts from their holiday wish list. The presents included dolls, LEGOs, laptop computers, games, bicycles and craft kits.

“I did this on my own, but my family’s company, Phantom Fireworks, will be involved in future years so hopefully it will grow and help even more children,” Zoldan said.

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