The orange balloon floating away from downtown L.A.'s skid row captivated 5-year-old Le'Trell Dobbins. He pointed to it and smiled before noticing the Easter Bunny standing several feet away.
"He's not going to be thinking of anything but where the Easter Bunny is," said the child's mother, Freddie Wright, 30.
It was the kind of distraction she hoped for for her son. Two days ago, they began staying at a shelter and were now among the dozens of homeless and underprivileged men, women and children attending an Easter and Passover brunch on Sunday.
The morning event was hosted by the Midnight Mission, a nonprofit that offers basic assistance to the needy, including 12-step drug and alcohol recovery and development programs.
Every year the mission holds holiday celebrations for poor and homeless residents, with celebrities, athletes, corporate sponsors and regular volunteers serving meals.
Georgia Berkovich, a mission spokeswoman, said about 300 volunteers were on hand to assist with Sunday's brunch. Among them were actor Dick Van Dyke and other celebrities.
She said 2,500 plates of ham, turkey, vegetables and mashed potatoes were served at the brunch.
Berkovich said the meals were prepared by 14 people who are in the mission's recovery program.
The morning event included a stage with a live band playing the blues while the Easter Bunny made his way around the tables, visiting children and handing out candy.
"It's a wonderful thing," Wright.
A domestic violence victim, Wright said she and Le'Trell recently began staying at the Union Rescue Mission. She said she tries to engage in fun activities with her son to lighten the circumstances of his surroundings.
She hopes that in a year she'll be working and will have a place of her own, maybe open a business. She said she just needs another chance to get her feet back on the ground — for her son's sake.
For now, Sunday was just about having "a little bit of fun," she said.