Toy Craze nets Bengals stars

bengal toy
Cincinnati Bengals players George Iloka (left), Reggie Nelson and Brandon Tate pose for a photograph with Avondale residents Franchae Walker and her sons Romansjai, 3, and Faiven, 2, during a holiday party Tuesday afternoon at the Urban League. Urban League photo/Mark Curnutte


By Mark Curnutte
Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio

AVONDALE — For the third consecutive December, the Greater Cincinnati Urban League and nonprofit developer The Community Builders teamed up to throw a holiday party for 190 households in Avondale.

The Community Builders is redeveloping housing units in eight Avondale buildings and has put up a new building at the corner of Reading Road and Maple Avenue as part of a $29.5 million federal housing grant. The Greater Cincinnati Urban League — in the persons of Melissa Hill and Torrance Jones — is a subcontractor providing social services to all residents of these households.

Toy Craze, an inclusive holiday party, provided toys to the children in the 140 Choice buildings households as well as children living in two other large Avondale low-income apartment communities, the Shiloh and Hale. The U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots program and The Community Builders provided toys.

“A great event, a wonderful time,” said Franchae Walker, a residents of the Poinciana, one of the Choice buildings, who brought her two preschool-aged sons to the party.

She wore a No. 99 Bengals jersey and posed with her sons with three Bengals players on hand for the event — safeties Reggie Nelson and George Iloka and wide receiver Brandon Tate. Nelson said he was unaware of the scope of the Urban League programs but said he volunteered to return to the party for the second consecutive year. NFL players commonly make community appearances or perform community service on Tuesdays, their only off-day during the grueling season.

The Bengals players, part of a 10-2 start that has many national pundits predicting a Super Bowl appearance, interacted effortlessly with children and their parents, slapping hands, chatting and posing for a long series of photographs.

“It’s nice here,” Nelson said.

The Bengals’ start, tied for the 1975 team for best in franchise history, can clinch the AFC North division title Sunday with a victory at home against their most heated rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Choice Neighborhoods families struggle with poverty and related issues, such as access to health care and stable employment. The Community Builders, said agency executive Cinnamon Pelly, provided access to an array of services during the holiday party: PNC Bank, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, The Center for Closing the Health Gap, Greater Cincinnati Urban League, Freestore Foodbank, SMX Staffing.

These Companies are Transformational Supporters of the Urban League’s Corporate Heritage Annual Giving Program.