One “fact” that is pretty much universally accepted by anyone involved in the life of a foster youth is that the holidays can be an extremely difficult time. While this is true, one doesn’t have to have the experience of foster care in order for the holidays to be a difficult time. There are a plethora of reasons that holidays may not be the most enjoyable time of the year. It may be that you or a loved one has to work; preparing for the friends and family you are hosting; remembering that you completely forgot the most wanted item on your child’s wish list; the possibilities truly are endless.
For the children we serve and many other foster youth the world over there are the “typical” reasons you might not enjoy the holidays as well as all the additional reasons circumstances create. A foster child might have just lost their placement and will now be spending their Christmas at Orangewood Children and Family Center. They might be living in a group home in which their closest friends will all be gone on overnight visits leaving them feeling alone. There may be memories of wonderful or awful previous holiday experiences that keep them on edge this year.
This is why amazing people like you reading this are so impactful! From the time the email is sent out in August inviting our faithful community partners to once again participate in our annual gift drive, to the day of the actual holiday party for our kiddos in December, people just like you step up and do what they can to bring joy and light to the lives of the children we serve. This support looks like companies holding general toy drives, accepting “snowflakes” containing a gift request from a child, signing up to wrap gifts, and working the holiday party.
All of this support allows us to ensure each child has gifts to open this holiday season, has books to read and give as gifts, and have happy memories that we hope they will never forget. Memories like dancing the “Macarena” even though the song was out long before many of them were born, participating in a lively dance-off, and interacting with the awesome deejay that gladly played the songs requested. And that was just one aspect of the party. Kids young and “old” ( aka, on any other day they would have been too cool for this) took a trip to the North Pole for a photo op with Santa. They got to be crafty and creative with jewelry making and cookie decorating, and silly at the photo booth. And when they needed a break from all the awesomeness taking place, they went and ate a yummy lunch catered by El Pollo Loco and delicious gelato provided by Gelato Paradiso.
As a CASA employee and second-year holiday party helper, I can attest to the amount of work that goes into preparing for, setting up, and cleaning up for this festive shindig. Even still, seeing the smiles, hearing the laughs, and getting to dance with these wonderful and resilient children makes it all worth it. Dancing with a Michael Jackson impersonator or witnessing the utter concentration put forth to make a bracelet fills you up with so much happiness that there’s no room to think about the clean up. So while it might take a lot of help to pull this off, with the abundant help of so many volunteers, it is something CASA OC is happy to do.
Happy Holidays from our CASA family to yours!