The line wrapped around the Scott Park Rec Room stretched out for what seem like a mile. The over 1000 excited faces anticipated the new toys and holiday food that would be given to them shortly. The Mike McKenzie 34 Ways Foundation and Rick Ross Charities Inc. hosted the 5th annual Holiday Winter Wonderland on December 22 here in the City of Miami Gardens.McKenzie and Ross, natives of Miami Gardens, teamed up to give away toys and holiday food to people in their community.
In attendance wereDuane Starks, Jerrod Daphins and Earl Little from the ‘Canes 4 Life’ organization which consistsof former University of Miami football players. Maybach Music Group artists Triple C’s, Young Breed, and Duce Pound were there as well. Florida House of Representatives Oscar Braynon II, who helped sponsor the food items given to the residents, showed up to give his support to this worthy cause.
The 34 Ways Foundationwas founded in 2002 to give encouragement to children through football camps, activities and programs. McKenzie thinks it is pertinent to host this event in the City of Miami Gardens because hegrew up in the community. A graduate of Miami Norland Senior High School and Super Bowl XLIV Champion with the New Orleans Saints; McKenzie knows the importance of having a strong foundation to help lead to success. He strongly believes that helping people in any way that he can is very important.
“Reaching families 34WAYS! This has always been my one and only goal. The goal is to foster an environment that not only creates positive individuals, but also instilling pride in one’s self and community” said McKenzie.
Their focus is to make the current conditions in inner city communities better for not only the youth, but also their parents.
“We want to insure the parents that our programs are safe and beneficial to their children in order to build a trust level with our foundation” McKenzie said.
When the 34 Ways Foundation began hosting the Holiday Winter Wonderland event, McKenzie paid for all items to be given away from his personal finances. Since then, the event has gain notoriety and has gained sponsors from groups and organizations such as the Eastern Stars and Seminole Chapter 10. The event has become something that residents of the Scott Lake area look forward to each year.
Mechelle Murray, 34 Ways foundation Program Director and Miami Norland Senior High school graduate, said the continuous growth of the event is due to people wanting to contribute their time and effort. Vernita Nelson, the City of Miami Gardens Assistant City Manager for General Services, helped to organize the event. The ‘Canes 4 Life’ organization and Maybach Music Group artists passed items to the residents as they traveled through distribution line.
Murray, who is also McKenzie’s sister and is a former professional women’s basketball player, is filled with pride and gratitude to host an event such as these in her home town.
“It just gives u a better appreciation of coming back to your area and giving back to the community where u are from… They [residents] respect you for that” said Murray. In the month of March, McKenzie and the 34 Ways Foundation is planning a four day event which will include a Bowl-a-thon and Flag Football game, and will be held here in South Florida. McKenzie said all the details are still a work in progress. For more information on the event and McKenzie’s foundation, visit 34waysfoundation.org.