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FedEx and Magic Johnson Make Holiday Magic for Kids

Magic Johnson 2009 Toy Drive Photo IMG_0035.JPG

FedEx and Magic Johnson Make Holiday Magic for Kids On a dark, rainy Saturday morning in Los Angeles, the Magic Johnson AMC Theater is buzzing with holiday singing, colorful arts and crafts activities, and the pitter-patter of little feet. The 300 kids in the theater’s front lobby are too busy making gingerbread houses and Santa Claus masks to notice that two FedEx trucks have pulled up in front of the building.

However, two dozen FedEx elves, clad in purple T-shirts and Santa hats, are keeping a secret. The FedEx trucks are packed from top to bottom with hundreds of dolls, stuffed animals, games, skateboards, and Safe Kids coloring books. The FedEx elves are helping the children with their arts and crafts, but they’re not talking about what’s in those trucks.

The event is the Magic Johnson Foundation’s 16th Annual Toy Drive and Holiday Party for children affected by poverty, domestic abuse or HIV/AIDS. Many of the children have been in foster care nearly all their lives.

This year marks the second year FedEx has served as the presenting sponsor of the holiday giving program and many toy donations have come from Mattel, Disney and Jakks Pacific. When the kids have completed their arts and crafts, the FedEx elves help serve breakfast snacks, then usher them into the auditorium to view the newly released hit Disney film, “The Princess and The Frog.”

Once the children are seated in the auditorium, Magic Johnson enters the room and is greeted enthusiastically by the children and their chaperones. “Please give a round of applause to FedEx,” Johnson tells the audience. “FedEx is a great company and they’re sponsoring this event for you. We extend special thanks to them for making this happen.” When the theater lights dim, the FedEx elves dash outside to the trucks. They have less than two hours to unload the trucks and transform the theater’s lobby into Toyland before “The Princess and the Frog” rolls the ending credits.

“I’ve never seen a team who could pack and unload an entire truck so quickly,” said Shane Jenkins, coordinator of the Magic Johnson Foundation’s Toy Drive. “FedEx is awesome and your shipping expertise really comes in handy with a program like ours.” (Two days before the main event, another group of cross-OpCo FedEx employees had organized and packaged the toys at the Magic Johnson Foundation’s headquarters.)

As the clock ticks away, some FedEx elves organize the gifts in the lobby area – girls’ on one side, boys’ on the other – while others wrap giant gift boxes and decorate the floor with cotton snow. Ten minutes before the movie ends, the work is finished. Magic Johnson emerges from the theater and approaches the FedEx volunteers.

“I want to take some photos with the FedEx team,” he says. “Where’s my shirt with the FedEx logo?” he asks a staffer. He puts on the shirt, then proudly dons a purple FedEx Santa hat. “Now I’m ready for my photos,” he says with his signature smile. He takes time to chat with employees one-on-one and pose for as many photos as they want. Finally, 300 kids exit the theater and make their way to the lobby with the FedEx elves serving as escorts.

Instantly, their eyes light up at the sight of hundreds of gift bags. Johnson joins Santa Claus and FedEx team members in greeting and handing out gifts to each child. When the last child receives her gifts, Johnson approaches a group of FedEx employees: “Did you see the smiles on their faces?” he asks. “Those smiles make all the difference to me. And I want to again thank FedEx for coming through for us. This is great!”

Established in 1991, the Magic Johnson Foundation works to develop programs and support community-based organizations that address the educational, health, and social needs of diverse urban communities. In addition to the holiday toy drive, FedEx supports the Magic Johnson Scholarship and Leadership Conference for college students and the Magic Johnson Empowerment Centers.

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