By Jessica Camerato
FRAMINGHAM -- The holidays are a month away, but Shaq-a-Claus has already come to town.
On Sunday, Shaquille O'Neal shopped the aisles of Toys 'R' Us in Framingham to donate gifts to the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation.
"This is what I do," he told CSNNE.com as he piled toys into one of his many shopping carts. "I've been doing this Toys for Tots since '95. I just partnered up with Toys 'R' Us about five years ago. I'd always go, whenever I had a day off, and get four or five U-Haul trucks and just fill them up."
O'Neal donned a red Santa Claus hat and shopped around with members of the Marines. He also stopped to talk to fans along the way. Once he made his purchase, he helped load the toys into a military vehicle in the parking lot.
O'Neal stresses the importance of donating in the community and in his own family. His rule of thumb -- before his children buy new toys, they must donate ten toys of their own.
"We took a few of their old toys down to a homeless shelter," he recalled. "This little kid had a broken doll and she was crying. When she got her new gift she was running around happy. It actually made my daughter cry."
O'Neal hopes other public figures will also get involved in similar activities and provide toys for deserving children.
"My goal is get one big-time person in each state," he said. "Like me, I'm doing this here, New Jersey, Florida, and California. So there goes four states right there. So I just say we get Paul Pierce to take care of California and Kevin Garnett take care of Minnesota. My goal is to one day just have a guy take care of their own state and their own city."
Shaq-a-Claus is off to an early start this year.
Jessica Camerato is on Twitter at http:twitter.comjcameratonba