Basketball icon Shaquille O'Neal visits Atlantic City's Pennsylvania Avenue School with the city's first lady Nynell Langford.
ATLANTIC CITY, NEW JERSEY — No fancy limousine, no big entourage (that was visible to me, at least).
I did notice a lot of security personnel, but I don’t know how Atlantic City's first lady Nynell Langford snuck Shaquille O’Neal over to Pennsylvania Avenue School last Saturday, Dec. 8.
But she did.
Usually in December, Langford sponsors her annual “A Day to Remember” event where mothers can spend time together recalling the wonderful memories of their children who have passed away.
This year, Langford decided to do something for the children, as always in honor of her own daughter, Mariah.
The multi-purpose room at the school was completely transformed into a holiday wonderland for more than 100 local children who were Langford’s special guests. Most of the adults had to stand up while the children ate McDonald’s Happy Meals (provided by the Macks, local franchise owners) cookies and other treats.
They were also entertained.
First up was the Ikonics Dance Team, from Mays Landing, dressed as mask-wearing hip-hop reindeer.
After the Ikonics got the crowd pumped up, a group of former Charter-Tech students and current teachers performed all types of holiday songs accompanied by a live combo.
Though Atlantic City’s first lady tried to save the best for last, it was difficult — at 7’1” — to keep the “Shaquo-Claus,” as she referred to Shaquille O'Neal, a secret while the children enjoyed their afternoon.
Parents, children and basketball enthusiasts flocked to take pictures with O’Neal once the secret was out at the invitation-only event, and the basketball great graciously obliged every single one of them.
Langford says she doesn’t do any of this because she’s the mayor’s wife. She does it, she says, because she loves Atlantic City and its children especially. Not one dime of the cost of her events is paid for with taxpayer dollars, she informed me.
Langford pays out of her own money, gets donations from friends and family and in-kind donations from businesses for such community events. Langford says she literally “shopped till she dropped” the night before this year’s event, which was complete with Disney princess re-enactors and huge bags of gifts for each child’s family, the names of whom she solicited mostly from city school principals and others in the community aware of those in need, especially after Hurricane Sandy.
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