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Old Bethpage Group Keeps Giving

There were enough jackets to keep more than an entire classroom of kids from the cold — but that was only the display rack.

The Old Bethpage-based Kids Helping Kids nonprofit celebrated its 10th winter apparel program inside the luxurious Oheka Castle in Huntington. The Dec. 11 gala featured more than 300 guests, including some of the organization’s biggest players, and celebrated a decade of kids doing the right thing.

“I’m about the kids and getting their stories told,” said Robert Eslick, executive director of Kids Helping Kids. “It’s not about me.”

Eslick said the 10-year celebration was the group’s biggest to date, and he and the organization went all out to make sure its message was relayed to the party. This year’s event was dubbed “Making a Warmth of Difference,” sending the point home that something as simple as a winter coat, scarf or hat could change someone’s outlook.

“Our thought was that kids in need also deserve new apparel, not just used,” Eslick said. “Most notably, all the apparel donations we receive come in the form of ‘new only’ branded winter coats, fleece and other forms of winter apparel.”

This year, Kids Helping Kids collected over $400,000 in winter apparel to be distributed to families throughout the Long Island area. That amount helped get the nonprofit’s grand total to $1.8 million worth of donations since its inception.

The donations were doled out to several Long Island organizations, including the Salvation Army, EAC, The INN in Hempstead, C.A.S.A., Nassau County Social Services to name a few.

Each year, the Old Bethpage dad hauls in carton after carton of name-brand coats and other winter apparel to be donated to those who need it. Eslick said he has made it a habit to reach out and help and could be seen driving his family Jeep to homeless shelters throughout Nassau, Suffolk and parts of Queens on Thanksgiving or Christmas Eve to lend a hand.

“I’m more about helping people than raising money,” he said.

The decade anniversary gala also honored John Pickett of Plainview-Old Bethpage John F. Kennedy High School, who joined Kids Helping Kids earlier this year and is the son of one of the group’s sponsors.

“He firsthand knows how to help and seew hats involved,” Eslick said. “When he walked into my home and saw 1,500 pieces of clothing on the floor, his eyes fell out of his head. Then, he started packing them up in cartons with us.”

Eslick co-founded the organization with his son, then 9-year-old Robert A.J. Eslick, in 1997. Since then, the younger Robert and his brother Philip Eslick have graduated college but remained active in the nonprofit, promoting the message that you don’t need to be a grownup to do good in your community.