To most kids, Christmas is truly the most wonderful time of the year. All of the smiling faces kids have while opening presents and spending time with their families are moments that are to be cherished and remembered throughout the years. Although Christmas is a magical season, not all families have the privilege of enjoying the holiday with presents and material joy. On Thursday evening, 500 children a part of Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Northwest Indiana experienced a Christmas they will always remember.
Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Northwest Indiana held it’s inaugural Christmas to Remember event for children who may not have had a memorable Christmas otherwise. Of the 10,000 kids served annually at Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Northwest Indiana, 500 kids who would have very little under the tree this year, were in attendance at the Genesis Convention Center in Gary. Mayor Karen Freeman and her hard working event staff offered the location in-kind, a venue large enough to handle the sheer size of 500 youth, 100 Boys & Girls Clubs Youth Development Professionals and chaperones, not to mention close to 125 huge-hearted volunteers needed in this labor-heavy production.
“For hundreds of our local Club members, the upcoming holidays are not happy times but instead times of anxiety and heightened awareness of lack,” said Ryan Smiley, President and CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Northwest Indiana. “I am most anticipating the excitement that will come out of the event tonight, not only in the eyes of our kids, but in the eyes of our volunteers, sponsors, and supporters for being able to be a part of this magical experience.”
Various sponsors donated money, supplies and volunteer work in order to make the magic happen. Individuals and small businesses donated generous amounts of money to fund the event and also donated Christmas decorations for display. Larger corporations that donated to the event include: Luxor Homes, Inc, Community Healthcare System, Greater Indiana Title Company, Draper & Kramer Mortgage Corp., American Community Bank, GNIAR, Strategic Financial Group, Centier Bank, Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage and the Hobart Planning Commission, Northwest Indiana Building Trades, Family Express, Peoples Bank, In Good Company, Proven IT, ATG Corporation, Team Audi-Volkswagen, Safety-Kleen, Hammond Group, Inc, Circle Buick and GMC, Sheet Metal Workers Local 20 and the City of Gary.
The first movements of the event were in motion when Randy Hall, president of Luxor Homes, Inc. heard that nearly 500 of the 10,000 kids served by Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Northwest Indiana will likely not have a Christmas worth remembering. He was concerned, and within three days of learning this shocking news, Hall had recruited a group of caring business leaders to meet at a local breakfast establishment and announced his plan to change the grim reality for the local Boys & Girls Clubs children.
“I simply reached out to business leaders I have known for years, local people I knew would be motivated to create something special for kids who needed the gift of hope, the assurance of caring, the removal of isolation, kids who needed to experience some extra love and excitement that should come with the holidays,” Hall said.
“They did not disappoint,” he continued. “Hours of time meeting and planning, contacting their own networks and donating thousands of dollars from their own businesses has brought to life a new large scale event that we hope will become an annual staple for Northwest Indiana businesses and individuals to support year after year.”
Children from Chesterton, Valparaiso, Gary, Hammond, Portage, South Haven, Cedar Lake, Lake Station, East Chicago, and Merrillville Clubs were able to participate in a variety of fun activities during the event. The kids were able to enjoy Little Caesar’s Pizza, decorate cookies, write thank you letters, meet law enforcement heroes, take photos with Santa, and open their own, personalized gifts.
The smiles on the children's faces were due to the joy of celebrating the Christmas season with their Club members and all the hard work by others to make the event possible. This Christmas is guaranteed to be remembered, not only the kids, but by the sponsors and everyone else who is involved with Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Northwest Indiana.