by Karen Koerner
It was a magical moment in front of Foxwoods Resort Casino Nov. 4 when world-renowned illusionist Criss Angel made a $25,000 donation during the fifth annual Stuff the Bus campaign that will benefit the Tommy Toy Fund program of the United Way of Southeastern Connecticut. The campaign continues until Dec. 11.
“We are one world, one people,” Criss told the crowd standing in front of the motorcoach that will be stuffed with toys and other gifts. “Children are all our children. I do this in honor of my beautiful son Johnny Christopher.”
Nearly a dozen excited “Loyals,” as Criss’s fans call themselves, screamed in delight when he announced his donation, and quickly collected their own contributions to put toward the Christmas charity. The group gathered from New York, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and even the United Kingdom. They met at Foxwoods to see Criss perform, and were ecstatic to be able to attend the kickoff with their idol.
Alice Soscia, Leadership Giving Director, United Way of SECT, said cash donations for the kickoff event totaled $26,140. Foxwoods patrons and employees also brought toys to begin the joyful process of stuffing the bus with holiday gifts. She noted that many think of Foxwoods as simply a world-class center for entertainment. “But we as a community see a whole lot more. It’s deeper and impactful and it saves and changes lives every day.”
Contributions of unwrapped toys, blankets, pajamas, jackets and diapers will be collected during the five-week campaign. Donations will be accepted at the Foxwoods Bus Terminal Bay #1 from 8am till 12am and at all Foxwoods hotel lobbies and select locations in the Tanger Outlets at Foxwoods. Mario Dennis Transportation out of Seekonk Massachusetts supplies the bus for the month-long effort.
“The Stuff the Bus campaign is one of our most important charitable initiatives, and we are proud of the continued support shown by our loyal guests, team members and many of the celebrities who visit or perform at Foxwoods,” said Felix Rappaport, President & CEO, Foxwoods Resort Casino. “In fact, this program continues to get even bigger and more successful every year, and has now brightened the holidays for more than 20,000 children and families in the region.”
Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Councilor Danny Menihan recalled how the campaign grew in popularity. “The initial year we filled one (shuttle) bus,” he said. Last year, Foxwoods Stuff the Bus filled more than two motorcoaches with toys, blankets and more that are given to local children who otherwise would not receive Christmas gifts. “It does touch a lot of homes,” he said.
Lynn Page, Loyalty Rewards Manager, Foxwoods Resort Casino, was Emcee of the colorful event. She also recounted the explosion in giving over the years. “This year, what do you think?” she urged the crowd. “Can we fill up two or possibly three buses?”