“Shaq-a-Claus” Brings Christmas to 500 Georgia Kids with Toys, Clothes

The 24th annual Shaq-A-Claus took place this week, and the NBA Hall of Famer brought Christmas gifts to more than 500 children in Georgia.

It is that time of year again for the annual Shaq-A-Claus, a mission that was started over 20 years ago through the Shaquille O’Neal foundation.

On Monday, Dec. 20, O’Neal kicked off this year’s Shaq-A-Claus at Wesley Lakes Elementary School in McDonough, Georgia, just outside of Atlanta. O’Neal and multiple community partners gave the students early Christmas gifts, including toys, jackets, socks, snacks, bicycles, $100 Walmart gift cards and more.

Shaq-A-Claus was started in 1997 by his mother, Dr. Lucille O’Neal. She called her son one day, explaining that she was with hundreds of children who otherwise would not be receiving any toys for Christmas, so she asked him to help. “I told her I would handle it,” he told Fox News, explaining he and his brother rented three moving trucks, visited a local toy store, and purchased and provided each child with several toys. “I was able to buy at least five toys each for about 500 kids.”

O’Neal said his mother has always been his inspiration for philanthropy. “I used to be a high-level delinquent [and] it wasn’t all smiles in my house,” O’Neal said. “Once I started playing basketball and becoming more responsible and learned how to be a leader instead of a follower, I would see her smile more. And that’s when it became my mission [to make her smile].” 

Shaq-A-Claus has become a nationwide mission to help underprivileged youth, with similar events taking place in California, Louisiana, New Jersey, Las Vegas, Boston and more.

“I just want kids to be able to follow their dreams,” said O’Neal.

Image source: Derek White / Getty Images for Pepsi Stronger Together