Korey Wise is the new Santa! Or at least he played jolly ol’ St. Nick this week when he surprised dozens and children and families at a Christmas toy drive in his old neighborhood in Harlem, New York.
Wise, an activist and member of the Exonerated 5, donned a red Santa hat and a bright smile Monday as he allowed kids from the Lehman Houses to pick out a brand new toy ahead of Christmas, local station PIX 11 reported.
“It makes me want to cry,” said Wise, who said he jumped at the chance to give back to the community where he used to hang out. “It gets emotional.”
Monday’s toy drive was organized by The Migdol Family Foundation, a charity dedicated to providing resources, education and housing needs to families across NYC. The organization, started in 2004, has worked closely with Harlem-area groups to provide everything from Thanksgiving meals and warm winter coats to school supplies and scholarships to Harlem’s top performing students, according to its website.
“We’ve found that giving is the best blessing you can have,” founder Jerry Migdol said.
The holiday festivities were just the latest highlight for Wise, 47, who was exonerated in 2002 after spending 14 years behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit. His story was thrust into the national spotlight earlier this year, thanks to director Ava DuVernay’s critically acclaimed Netflix miniseries “When They See Us.”
The show tells the story of the Exonerated Five, known formerly as the Central Park Five: Raymond Santana, Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam and Wise. Decades ago, the then-teenagers were wrongfully convicted in the brutal rape and assault of a Central Park jogger in 1989.
All five were cleared after another man, Matias Reyes, confessed to the crime and DNA testing confirmed their innocence. Out of all the defendants, however, Wise would spend the most time in jail.
In 2014, the men were awarded a $41 million settlement from the city of New York.
Actor Jharrel Jerome won an Emmy earlier this year for his portrayal of Wise in “When They See Us.”
DuVernay posted about the heartwarming story of Wise’s toy drive on Twitter, writing: “I wanna be like Korey when I grow up.”
Watch more in the video below.