Bay Ridge park turns into Winter Wonderland for a good cause

Julianna and Nicholas Bambina were holding the Christmas ornaments they made by hand at a booth in the Christmas Village as they watched children glide across a skating rink set up on the grass in John Paul Jones Park in Bay Ridge on Dec. 8. “This is so nice for the kids,” their mother, Lori Bambina said as she too enjoyed watching the kids skate. 

The Christmas Village and the skating rink were part of a fun-filled event that took place in the park Saturday afternoon. Called “Stuff-A-Bus,” the event, organized by Bliss Entertainment, a Dyker Park-based event planning company, featured Santa Claus, candy canes, games for kids, raffles, and miniature golf.

The event was called “Stuff-A-Bus” because organizers were seeking to literally stuff a yellow school bus with hundreds of toys that would later be donated to charities helping children from underprivileged families, according to David Annarummo, owner of Bliss Entertainment. The bus was parked at the curb outside the entrance to the park. “We’re doing pretty good,” he said, adding that he was pleased with the number of toys that had been donated. Many of the toys would be donated to children whose families have been displaced by Hurricane Sandy, he said.

Participants were asked to bring a toy to the park to be donated to a needy child. Many people obeyed the request. One by one, children climbed aboard a yellow school bus to bring their toys. After making their donations, the children and their parents entered the park to enjoy the Christmas Village.

Prior to arriving at the park, the bus had made a journey through shopping areas in Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights, collecting toys donated by business owners.

The park offered a variety of delightful sights. Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus posed for pictures with families. Youngsters were running around waving candy canes like swords. Children played miniature golf. Kids tried to toss balls into cups at the carnival booth to win prizes. Parents waited patiently on long lines to buy cotton candy for their children. Children practiced their best Olympic figure skating champion spins on the ice skating rink.

John Paul Jones Park, nestled beneath the foot of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, doesn’t actually have an ice skating rink. Annarummo and his fellow organizers had one built just for the day to make the day more magical for children.

In the Christmas Village, Leigh Holliday and her husband, Justin Brannan, owners of The Art Room, an arts education center on Third Avenue, were in a booth helping children bring out their artistic side. The kids were creating handmade Christmas tree ornaments. 

U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm (R-Brooklyn-Staten Island) and state Sen. Marty Golden (Bay Ridge-southern Brooklyn) served as honorary co-chairmen of the “Stuff-A-Bus” event.