RICHMOND -- With a Cadillac Escalade as his sleigh, C.C. Sabathia pulled up to the entrance of the Booker T. Anderson Community Center on Sunday with a trunk stuffed with toys to hand deliver to volunteers at the Drew Gooden Foundation's toy drive.
While at Vallejo High School, the New York Yankees pitcher competed on the basketball court against Gooden, a star at El Cerrito High School who later attended the University of Kansas and now plays for the NBA's Milwaukee Bucks. They teamed up Sunday to spread holiday joy to children in need who came by the hundreds to the gymnasium of Gooden's childhood on the south side of Richmond.
"I feel like it's an obligation of mine," Sabathia said. "I know Drew's got love for Richmond like I got love for Vallejo. It's second nature."
The dozens of gifts were added to the hundreds purchased by Gooden and will end up under the Christmas trees of families who can't afford to purchase gifts for their children, organizers said. About 300 children who live in nearby apartment complexes or are students at Stege Elementary School received a gift.
Gooden was unable to attend because of the Bucks' schedule.
Assata Briscoe, of San Pablo, brought her 2-year-old and 1-year-old sons to meet Santa Claus. The mother of seven works for Contra Costa County and said she struggles to provide for her family.
"Things are hard for everybody. Everybody needs help," said Briscoe, who added that the gifts will not be opened until Christmas morning. "We're telling them they are from Santa."
This was the young foundation's inaugural toy drive and the start of what Director Melissa LaCorte hopes will become an annual tradition.
The foundation is also planning to partner with the city of Richmond in 2013 to offer big brother mentoring and basketball and baseball programs for the city's youth.
Maurice Braxton, a co-founder of the foundation and former teammate of Gooden, said he has watched the athletic programs he and Gooden grew up with vanish.
"There's a lot of talent out here being wasted," Braxton said.
Contact David DeBolt at 925-943-8048. Follow him at Twitter.com/daviddebolt.