Korey Wise—a member of the Exonerated Five—was robbed of his childhood as a result of a flawed criminal justice system. Upon being exonerated and released from prison, the now 47-year-old has transformed his pain into power and purpose and has been dedicated to empowering Harlem youth. This holiday season Wise hosted a toy drive for underprivileged children at the Lehman Houses in East Harlem, PIX 11 reported.
The holiday giveaway was a collaborative effort organized by Wise and The Migdol Family Foundation. The organization—which was founded in 2004 by Jerry and Sheri Migdol—provides educational and housing resources for residents and organizations throughout New York City. Wise visited Lehman Houses on Monday and surprised a group of children with gifts. He said seeing their reactions to the gifts made him emotional.
“It was great to see the smiles, hear the screams of excitement, and receive the hugs from parents and children,” he told the Amsterdam News. “Being here and providing holiday cheer to children and sending a message that somebody cares is a great feeling. I thank the Friends of Public School Harlem and the Migdol Family for making it happen.” More than 200 families from the Harlem community attended the toy drive.
Wise has continually given back to children from his neighborhood. In August, he teamed up with a group called Friends of Public Schools Harlem Inc. to provide youngsters with school supplies and backpacks for the new school year. The organization provides local schools in the community with the supplies needed to ensure the educational success of their students and donates funds to schools for the creation of health and wellness and arts programs.
Outside of the youth initiatives that he’s led, Wise—who was exonerated in 2002 and awarded a $41 million settlement from the city of New York along with the other Exonerated Five members—has been an advocate for criminal justice reform. In 2015, he donated $190,000 to the University of Colorado’s Innocence Project to help fight wrongful convictions.