Editor's note: This person was chosen as the Huffington Post's Greatest Person of the Day.
When Bellmore resident Tom O'Connor visited the Gulf Coast in 2005, he saw the destruction left by Hurricane Katrina.
"It was then I realized the devastation," he said. "The media did it no justice."
In August of 2005, O'Connor was contacted by the FDNY Family Assistance Unit to bring down food and supplies to Katrina victims. During Christmas season of that year, he and some friends dropped off toys for children devastated by the natural disaster. It was then that Katrina Kids was born.
"We have been going back ever since," he said.
O'Connor took his ninth trip to the Gulf Coast this month and distributed toys to children in Mississippi and Alabama. More than 30 of his friends and former colleagues joined him.
"The trip went exceptionally well," he said. "The most memorable moment was when we arrived at the second stop in Jackson County to drop off the toys and all the children were in the lobby waiting patiently for us. They sang Christmas songs to us when we entered the building."
O'Connor said the best part of the trip was seeing the children filled with joy.
"To see the excitement on their faces makes all the work worth while," he said.
Since it first started, the toy drive has provided gifts for more than 50,000 children.
O'Connor stressed that he could not have done it alone. He said that he has received tremendous support from his Bellmore community.
O'Connor said that this year's trip was bittersweet for him. His good friend, Shelly Barocas, who has volunteered on all the previous trips, is in hospice care due to prostate cancer. He said his friend's fighting spirit encouraged him to keep making the holidays special for children of the Gulf Coast.
"The hope is that we can sustain this," he said. "We have been told that Katrina happened in 2005 and other things have happened, but the need is still there and we want to fulfill those needs. We will continue to go down until we can't anymore."