Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Watch Live


San Diego group raises the bar for annual toy drive

Local company Lion Made Empire is holding their second annual toy drive in Oak Park this Sunday.

Last year, Lion Made Empire Founder Lamar Canady Jr. organized a toy drive to help the youth in the community.

Canady and his team used their own money to buy the toys and delivered them to about 80 children. But the young entrepreneur had a goal of expanding future toy drives — and this year, he plans to have toys for 400 kids!


“This year we have some sponsors and endorsements from other big organizations," Canady said.

We talked with him at the site of the giveaway scheduled for Sunday, where people will be able to drive up to get their toys. It's outside a building in Oak Park that is the site of a personal tragedy.

“This spot right here is where I lost my father in 2014,” Canady said. “He passed away here. He was a pretty well known guy. He worked well in the community and gave back as well.”

Canady was just 10 years old when his father, Lamar Canady, Sr., was murdered in his barbershop. A big mural of Lamar Sr. is now painted on the outside of that same building with his portrait, palm trees, and his slogan, "Still dreaming" along with the words, "RIP CeeWee 3."

Canady said they chose the site to honor his father, “and keep the awareness out that even though you go through negative things in life, you can make it a positive out of it.”


Canady's mother, Melissa Hernandez, is one of 12 volunteers who is helping to run the drive. She said the day her husband, Lamar, Sr., was murdered changed her life, but also made her stronger. She said the Oak Park location also means a lot to her.

“It was important that even though something so negative happened here, we want to bring out the goodness,” Hernandez said. “We want to show the community that we won’t stop and we haven’t stopped and we will continue.”

On Thursday the building had some graffiti on one side, but on Friday volunteers are planning to remove the graffiti to make the spot festive for Sunday's event, where Canady said they will give away toys for children from newborns to age 13.

“(We'll have) toy skateboards, basketballs, footballs, scooters, Barbie dolls, all ages from newborns up to 13 years old,” he said.

He plans to have Santa Claus on hand for family photos, along with food and drink for people to enjoy.

“It’s just going to be a good vibe out here for the community as well as giving back toys,” Canady said.

He added, “This place is home to us. This is a good community despite the bad things that may happen in it, and we’re going to continue being out here changing the narrative and being positive and giving back to the youth.”  

Donations are still being accepted, and anyone who wishes to help can contact Canady by emailing