Thursday, Dec. 11, 2014 | 2:01 a.m.
Children lined up outside a building in Henderson, giddy to receive presents and spend a few moments chatting with the well-known man behind the gifts.
No, Santa Claus didn’t make an early stop Wednesday.
R&B singer-songwriter and former Henderson resident Ne-Yo visited his old neighborhood, delivering presents to children at the John C. Kish Boys & Girls Club at 401 Drake St.
The clubhouse, decked out in Christmas lights and decorations, was filled with about 500 children from local foster care groups, group homes and the Boys & Girls Club of Southern Nevada.
Tables full of presents in the main room were covered with everything from a singing Justin Bieber doll to a purple “Frozen” backpack and sports equipment.
Ne-Yo, whose real name is Shaffer Chimere Smith, visited the same clubhouse when he was growing up in Henderson as his mother worked multiple jobs to pay the bills.
“We didn’t really look at the fact that we didn’t have a lot as an issue because we were happy,” he said.
This is the eighth year he and his organization, The Compound Foundation, have organized their Giving Tour, which travels the country bringing presents to more than 2,000 children ages 3 to 18.
Though the other cities he visits on the tour change based on need, he always makes it a point to visit Las Vegas.
“It means the world to me to be here. I grew up here,” Ne-Yo said standing next to a stack of photos, ready to be signed and distributed to the kids.
He recalls being just like those kids.
The Rancho High School Class of 1998 graduate says he understands their mindset, and each year when he visits Las Vegas on the Giving Tour, he tries to explain to the children that he was once in their shoes.
“You might have to work a little bit harder than average for people to really see who you are, and if you’re not afraid of that hard work, you can get and be whoever you want to be,” he said as he prepared to give a short speech.
When the kids are all gathered in the building’s gymnasium, Ne-Yo enters to screams and cheers. He quickly asks the kids if they’re ready for Christmas, as his mother gives a short speech. The man behind the gifts then heads to a room where he will sign autographs and visit with each child.
The kids grab their presents in groups, and grins and giggles abound. Some walk away clutching boxes filled with new bikes, while others hug their Hot Wheels sets.
He says he has an important message to deliver along with the presents and some Christmas cheer.
“Success coming from this place is possible,” he said.
He encourages them to stay at the Boys & Girls Club to learn some of the lessons he said the organization taught him.
“I mean it when I say that this club has a lot to do with who I am today,” he said.