A Night of Sequins and Celebration
Light sparkles off sequined jackets as over 2000 guests of the annual New York City Toys Party eagerly arrive at Chelsea Piers. Before entering the ballroom, attendees pass by a twenty-foot Santa and leave a toy in the growing pile at his feet – when they leave, this pile will be taller than many of the guests.
Once guests have finished arriving, Robby Browne and his co-hosts, Chris Kann and David Tufts, take the stage and present the 34th Annual Toys Party Award to CNN host and LGBTQ+ activist, Don Lemon.
Don turns to the room: “Never did I ever think I would be standing here, getting an award from all of you. I never felt like I would fit into the gay community,
I’m not the Ken doll that I saw in the clubs and was never really accepted – now here I am getting an award from all of you.”
He continued: “We are here because of Robby. There are very few people in this world that I would walk through fire for, and Robby is one of them.”
34 years ago, Robby Browne decided to host a modest party in his apartment on the West side. When inviting his friends to celebrate the holiday season, he also asked that they bring a toy, which would be donated to children in need at the end of the evening. No one could have imagined that years later, the event would be hailed as one of New York’s most recognizable traditions.
This year, the Toys Party collected over 5,000 toys and raised more than $260,000 to benefit LGBTQ+ elders through SAGE. But the event is more than just a charitable holiday party. From its inception during the AIDS crisis, Robby has sought to facilitate a space for LGBTQ+ people to feel safe and to be accepted as they are. Year after year, the Toys Party brings together people of all ages from the LGBTQ+ community to celebrate the past year, and hail in the new one, together.