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Toys & clothes gifted to 200 children

LAPLACE — Raydell and TaQuana Mason’s second annual toy and clothing drive fulfilled the Christmas wants and needs of approximately 200 area children last week outside of the Choice Marketplace in LaPlace.

The charity tradition began after the passing of Raydell and TaQuana Mason’s son, RayQuan Mikel Mason, in July 2019. RayQuan was diagnosed with DiGeorge Syndrome, and he was a champion in every sense of the word. Wrestling, bowling and skating were among his favorite activities. Above all, he will always be remembered for his loveable heart.

RayQuan loved to share. He would often give away the lunches his parents would pack for him to other children at school. When he was out shopping with his mother and spotted children in the store, he wanted to stop and buy them toys.

“We decided to start a toy drive in honor of him because he always liked to give. He was just a sweetheart and a kind person,” Mason said. “We decided to do something special because a lot of parents of special needs kids don’t always have the extra money to give them a normal Christmas.”

Last week’s Christmas giveaway was open to all children, but it was especially geared toward the special needs population. In addition to honoring RayQuan, the Christmas giveaway was also held in memory of Kerek “Kano” Robertson, the late son of Derek and Tanza Robertson.

Kerek passed away far too soon at the age of 13 in January 2007, but memories of his time on Earth will always live on in the hearts of his family members. Tanza Robertson is the owner of Malou’s Southern Eatery food truck, which provided free food for all guests at the Christmas giveaway.

The Robertson family has also aided in other charity events in 2020. This included providing free meals to victims of Hurricane Laura when evacuees were stationed in LaPlace.

According to Mason, Carter Cares was a major partner contributing to the success of this year’s event. Eric Carter was one of the “elves” on-site assisting in the toy and clothing distribution. The event also featured upbeat Christmas music from a local DJ and an appearance from Santa Claus himself.

Wonderful raffle prizes ranging from bikes to televisions, tablets and gift cards were given away every 10 minutes throughout the event. TaQuana was happy with the turnout, and she anticipates the giveaway will grow larger year after year.

“We added clothes this year because a lot of kids and adults who came out last year asked about clothes, shoes and jackets,” TaQuana said. “The most rewarding part was seeing the kids so happy and letting them pick out the toys that they would like and not running out. We were able to give to everyone.”