Whitestone man to head toy drive for sick children

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When Santa shows up at the Nassau Community Medical Center next month, he may look remarkably like Whitestone resident Anthony Cammarata.

For the last seven years, the Queens man, who owns Venezia Tile at 160−44 Willets Point Blvd., has headed up a toy drive for sick children during the holiday season to bring some extra cheer to those who cannot be home for the holidays.

Cammarata and his staff have chosen a different children’s medical center each year for the toy drive, gathering together a pickup truck’s worth of children’s toys and getting Saint Nick himself to deliver them to children in the week before Christmas.

“We’re basically a family−owned business with a soft spot for kids,” Cammarata said. “I thank God every day that my kids are healthy, but I know not everyone is so fortunate.”

In years past, Venezia Tile has delivered hundreds of toys to the Ronald McDonald House in New Hyde Park and St. Mary’s Children’s Medical Center in Bayside. This year Cammarata said they hope to gather toys and bring them to the Nassau Community Medical Center in East Meadow, L.I.

“You see so much out there today with the kids that it’s just sad,” Cammarata said. “We just want to make these kids happy.”

Cammarata said he knows he cannot fulfill most children’s wishes of a clean bill of health, but said he can almost always get at least a smile out of them.

“Two years ago there was a little kid in a bed. When I went in I asked him, ‘What do you want for Christmas?’ He said, ‘I want to go home.’ It broke my heart. We couldn’t do that for him, but you better believe we loaded this kid up with a ton of toys.”

Venezia Tile is asking for donations of children’s toys from the community for this year’s toy drive. Cammarata said donations can be dropped off at his 160−44 Willets Point Blvd. store, where the staff will be accepting toys through the third week of December.

Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e−mail at or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 138.

Updated 6:39 pm, October 10, 2011
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