MIKE KOOZMIN/THE S.F. EXAMINERDream Team’s Donald Andrews collected more than 200 toys during a toy drive. The toys will be given away to less fortunate families in the Oceanview neighborhood.

After near-death experience, SF shop owner becomes community ambassador

San Francisco resident Donald Andrews’ life is all about teamwork.

That’s why the 28-year-old shop owner and car enthusiast promised to give one of his signature T-shirts to anyone who donates at least one $10 toy to his Dream Team store this holiday season. When Andrews launched the campaign Nov. 6 he hoped to receive 100 toys. As of mid-December, he had more than 220.

“That’s my way of saying, ‘Thank you,’” Andrews explained of why he offers his shirts to those who donate toys. “I just want to do good for my community.”

Today, Andrews will become Santa Claus for the Oceanview neighborhood when he hands out the toys to some 50 children who otherwise might not receive a present for Christmas. His holiday toy give-away will also include serving hot chocolate, decorating holiday cookies and watching classic Christmas movies, he added.

“To make a kid smile or see a struggling mom give me a high five or a hug — it’s a feeling you can’t explain,” said Andrews.

This desire to help the community can be traced back a decade to an experience that brought him near death.

In the early morning hours of Nov. 1, 2004, after Andrews had returned to his Diamond Heights home from a Halloween celebration, someone drove up to his garage and shot Andrews in the mouth. It was a case of mistaken identity.

Andrews recalls blacking out for a minute before driving himself to San Francisco General Hospital. Three of his teeth were crushed, but what likely saved his life were the tooth ornaments he was wearing at the time.

“I really believe that my gold grill had stopped the bullet impact from coming in at full force and exiting at my throat,” Andrews said.

Upon his recovery, Andrews dove deeper into his work with the youth center Inner City Youth, where he was a client as child. He eventually became a case manager and also was hired by the Department of Public Works. But in his mid-20s he decided to take a break and pursue a music career.

It was while traveling to see other hip-hop and rap artists and Andrews came up with his next venture — designing signature clothing. That goal quickly morphed into Andrews opening up his own retail shop, near his grandmother’s beauty salon on Broad Street.

Andrews named it Dream Team after the rap group he and his good friend started when they were in high school.

“The concept of the Dream Team is helping one another,” Andrews said. “In order to win, use team work.”

Andrews has since sold more than 30 local brands in his store, and even opened up a snack stand for kids.

“Just at the flick of a finger, I could have been dead,” Andrews said. “Now is the time to live life like it’s my last day.”

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