Shaq-a-Clause brings Christmas early, blesses 500 Georgia kids with toys and clothes

An unusually tall Santa Claus received early Christmas presents for nearly 500 students at Wesley Lakes Elementary School in McDonough, Georgia, outside Atlanta, this week as NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal continued his Shaq-a-Clause charity for its fourth year. twenty.

While skipping over the traditional red cap and coat, it measures 7 feet in height. 1 in. The philanthropist has brought toys, clothes, food, bikes, gift cards, haircuts and more to the kids amid a holiday season filled with the coronavirus pandemic, inflation and supply chain issues.

“Shaq-a-Clause is an event created by Dr. Lucille O’Neill, who also happens to be my mother,” O’Neill said in a video provided to Fox News from TMX. “It started in 1992, and we’ve been doing it ever since.” The Shaquille O’Neal Foundation website says she started the charity in 1997.

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“Shaq-a-Clause is not just a giveaway event,” the former NBA star said, referring to the coaching opportunities offered by event sponsors.

MCDONOUGH, GA - DECEMBER 20: Shaq poses with the kids at a surprise Shaq-A-Claus and Pepsi Stronger Together for Atlanta school with toys & games.  Treats on December 20, 2021 in McDonough, Georgia.

MCDONOUGH, GA – DECEMBER 20: Shaq poses with the kids at a surprise Shaq-A-Claus and Pepsi Stronger Together for Atlanta school with toys & games. Treats on December 20, 2021 in McDonough, Georgia.
(Derek White/Getty Images Pepsi is stronger together)

“When I talk to high school students, it’s the time to deliver messages but for primary [kids] Little. So it’s just play, play, play here. I know what school can be like today… [is about] Having a nice time.”

“Uncle Shaq,” as some children call him on his occasions, explained that the annual charity began with a simple phone call from his mother. She was with hundreds of kids who otherwise wouldn’t have had any new toys for Christmas, so she asked Shaq to help them set them up.

MCDONOUGH, GA - DECEMBER 20: Shaq attended the Shaq-A-Claus Surprise and Pepsi Stronger Together School of Atlanta with toys & games.  Treats on December 20, 2021 in McDonough, Georgia.

MCDONOUGH, GA – DECEMBER 20: Shaq attended the Shaq-A-Claus Surprise and Pepsi Stronger Together School of Atlanta with toys & games. Treats on December 20, 2021 in McDonough, Georgia.
(Derek White/Getty Images Pepsi is stronger together)

“I told her I would handle it,” he said, explaining that he and his brother rented three moving trucks, visited a local toy store, and bought and supplied each child with several toys. “I was able to buy at least five toys each for about 500 children.”

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Besides helping start the tradition, Shaq said his mom has always been his inspiration for his charitable work.

“I used to be a high-ranking delinquent [and] “Not everything was smiling in my house,” O’Neill said. “Once I started playing basketball and became more responsible and learned how to be a leader rather than a follower, I could see her smiling more. That’s when my mission became [to make her smile]. ”

MCDONOUGH, GA - DECEMBER 20: Shaq attended the Shaq-A-Claus Surprise and Pepsi Stronger Together School of Atlanta with toys & games.  Treats on December 20, 2021 in McDonough, Georgia.

MCDONOUGH, GA – DECEMBER 20: Shaq attended the Shaq-A-Claus Surprise and Pepsi Stronger Together School of Atlanta with toys & games. Treats on December 20, 2021 in McDonough, Georgia.
(Derek White/Getty Images Pepsi is stronger together)

The 4-time NBA champion went on to buy her a house and fund her education, each of which, he explained, earned the coveted smile.

Shack hosts events like the one in McDonough to help disadvantaged youth across the country, with similar events in California, Louisiana, and New Jersey. The Shaquille O’Neal Foundation’s website says it also organizes events in Las Vegas and Boston.

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Shack said he hopes his efforts will go beyond Christmas and be life-changing: “I strategically use messages that I know they will listen to. I try to be the gateway for them to realize their dreams.”

“I hope the world becomes a better place and we can bring police and communities together. I just want children to be able to pursue all their dreams,” he added.

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