A few years back, Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Northwest Indiana started hosting a “Christmas to Remember.” This holiday bash gathered kids from Clubs across the Region to meet Santa, open presents sponsored by most generous donors, and celebrate the season with their friends.
The Clubs knew they needed to do things differently this year to keep kids safe during the pandemic, while still giving them a chance to celebrate and open presents. So, instead of one big celebration, each Club hosted their own socially-distanced party – with a total of 312 kids around the Region receiving gifts. The South Haven Club hosted their party on Wednesday evening, and all 59 of their members who have been attending the Club daily received a bag of presents.
“The whole point of this is that we know some families of our Club kids don’t have the means to give a lot at home for the holidays,” said Stephanie Hamilton, Director of Marketing for Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Northwest Indiana. “We, and all of our donors, want to make sure that every child has a Christmas that makes them happy, makes them smile, and provides lasting Holiday memories.”
To stay within the strict safety guidelines of the organization, the South Haven Club divided Club members into groups by grade level. First, Club staff let members chat with Santa from a safe distance. Then, kids had the opportunity to open their bags of gifts that contained items from their wish lists – everything from shirts, shoes, and jackets, to Beyblade sets and PlayStation gift cards.
“The generosity from the community in giving to these kids is just amazing,” said Jon Young, South Haven Club Director. “We serve all kids, but a lot of them have financial need, and that’s never more obvious than during Christmas when other kids are getting shoes, and they just get a book. We’re giving both books and shoes, and every child is getting the opportunity to open presents thanks to the generosity of the community that surrounds us.”
Hamilton attended a number of Club’s parties to take photos, and said the reaction of the kids is always a treat.
“There was a little boy at the Hammond Club that opened a box of Legos, and he just sat there and hugged his new Legos,” Hamilton said. “He was so excited that he just cradled that box in his arms. Another girl got a huge box of Goldfish, and was ecstatic to get so much of one her favorite foods. It’s incredible to see.”
One Club member, 10-year-old Damani Brown, got an array of clothes and other gifts – but was particularly thrilled to receive one timely present – portable hand sanitizer. It fit well the night’s focus on safety.
“It’s unique that we’re going to safely bring everyone in to celebrate,” Hamilton said “We’ve have food for everyone, presents for everyone, everyone gets a chance to talk with Santa.”
This is such a huge community effort. Christmas to Remember is coordinated by a volunteer committee that works tirelessly to ensure there are enough sponsors to provide gifts to the Clubs youth. Additionally, this year sponsors and generous individuals added to the Clubs’ Holiday Season by fulfilling wish lists in which every single member will benefit with the addition of new art supplies, crafts, and equipment for all to use.
To learn more about Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Northwest Indiana and to see a complete list of Christmas to Remember sponsors, visit www.bgcgreaternwi.org.