By Erin Levi
If you need to get something done, call Richard “Richie Rich” Nektalov.
The philanthropic jeweler-to-the-stars who founded the self-named Richie Rich Wish Foundation pulled off another extraordinary Hanukkah Toy Drive for special-needs kids in New York, this time raising funds to buy toys for children in Israel who have been directly impacted by October 7th as well.
The month-long Hanukkah Toy Drive culminated in a heartwarming event held on December 20, 2023, at the Yeshiva of Flatbush in Brooklyn, replete with a sweets station doling out cotton candy, popcorn and donuts, and golden retriever therapy dogs from Center One Therapy. About 300 kids attended, in addition to notable community figures and leaders, such as Bukharian Jewish Community Center President Leon Nektalov (who happens to be Richie’s father) and Rabbi Vaknin.
Leading up to it, volunteers caused a traffic jam inside Target buying up $12,000-worth of toys filling dozens of red shopping carts, from basketballs to acoustic guitars to battery-powered ride-on trucks, to be gifted at the event. They also sourced $16,000-worth of high-value electronics from Apple, such as iPads, and headphones for children with impaired hearing. Two children won Xboxes in the raffle.
A subsequent event in Israel is scheduled, with the date pending confirmation.
“Out of all money ($87,000) and toys raised during the month-long toy drive, we decided to allocate a certain portion ($30,000) to benefiting kids in Israel facing adversity: Whether they’ve lost a family member, have parents or siblings fighting in the war, or are displaced and residing in a hotel, we wish to bring joy to their lives by sending them toys. The remainder of the contributions from the same drive supported special-needs kids and children diagnosed with illnesses here in New York,» shared Nektalov.
Nektalov says this would not have been possible without his incredible sponsors: Long Island restaurant Doma Land Sea, Smash House Burgers, Future Care Internal Medicine, Thrivewell Infusion, J&D Pharmacy, ReInvent Yourself NYC, Bukharian Jewish Community Center, Ultimate Diamonds, Beth Gavriel Synagogue, and Leon Diamond. Nor, of course, without the help of his phenomenal team of volunteers: his wife Ashley Nektalov; David and Iris Nektalov; David and Miryam Kandkhorov; Mark and Doris Pinhasov; Ribi and Elivana Mirakov; Emanuel and Julie Elishayev; David and Sigalit Shamayev; Ilan and Michelle Elishayev; Ariel and Daniela Shamayev; George and Natalie Mush; and Michael and Sarit Shemtov—not to mention friends, family, clients, and followers who support him and the annual toy drive.
“I’m truly blessed and honored to be a part of such an organization that had the opportunity to work with CARE for Special Children, Spot of Dreams, Strive Chai, Bright Planet, and Lamplighter Hebrew Academy.
“Thank you to everyone who donated toys, money and [their] time to help set up such a successful event. I honestly didn’t think I would be able to top off last year’s toy drive especially in such a short time frame, but not only did we top it off, but we will be hosting [in the coming weeks] hundreds of kids and young adults in Israel,” Nektalov shared with his followers on Instagram.