It’s the most wonderful time of the year…or so the song goes, right? According to the song, kids should be “jingle belling” and our collective hearts should be glowing. I’m “all in” for living in that world. However, reality is often far from this lovely image of this hypothetical holiday-world. The bigger reality is that the holidays can be a very difficult time. Our kids and families are no exception and, in fact, their traumatic experiences and situations can make it the most difficult time, far from wonderful.
The holiday season can truly be a magical time for us all. It is wonderful to spend time with family, have big holiday dinners and, of course, give and receive presents. It is a time to celebrate and Give Joy. But for some, the holidays can be absolutely dreadful. Holidays are expensive and, as a struggling parent, fear can take over, knowing that you won’t be able to provide for your child. A distressing reminder that due to current circumstances you cannot make ends meet let alone make the holidays special.
This year, Family Care Network launched our Give Joy fundraising campaign to raise funds to provide the children, youth and families in our care with everything they need to have a positive holiday experience. As our team was planning this campaign, setting goals, and reaching out to our community for support, I couldn’t help but reflect on the true meaning and impact of joy itself. After a very hard year, especially for the children and families we serve, there is such a need for joy and light-heartedness.
Sponsor a Child is my most cherished fundraising campaign to be a part of here at Family Care Network. When I was interviewing for my position at FCNI, one of the first things that was mentioned was Sponsor a Child, our annual effort to work directly with our community to raise awareness and financial resources to ensure that the families and youth in our care have a joyful and bright holiday season. Having come from a family who had received similar services when I was younger, I instantly knew that I needed to work at Family Care Network.
The programs and support we provide to the youth and families in our care are designed to be strength-based, trauma-informed, and, most of all, empowering. We believe that the relationship between caregivers--whether they be biological parents/family members, foster parents, respite providers, teen parents or adoptive/guardians--and the children in their care is vital to the overall success of every child and family. Therefore, empowering and encouraging healthy relationships within families is one of our main objectives.
Sponsor a Child for the Holidays is a time each year when our community comes together to make holiday dreams come true for the youth and families we serve. It’s a fun and magical time, and as a Social Worker at the Family Care Network for the past few years, I have many special memories of our families enjoying this tradition during the holidays.
Hurricane Harvey in August 2017 went down on record as being the wettest tropical cyclone and costliest natural disaster in the history of the United States. A huge portion of this devastation took place in Houston Texas, where thousands of families were instantly displaced from their homes due to extreme flooding, losing everything they owned. One such family was the Bowden family. Timothy and Jazmin and their two young daughters Vanessa and Liliana had no idea what was coming their way as they prepared to weather the incoming storm.
Gifts come in all shapes and sizes—from extravagant, to handmade, or sentimental and even humorous. While every gift given for the pure joy of its recipient is meaningful, “life changing” gifts are in a category all to themselves. These are the gifts that when given, change the mindset, the circumstances and even the futures of those being gifted. Every holiday season, Mike McCarthy partners with us to give such a gift to one of our families working towards successful self-sufficiency. And witnessing each family’s joy at receiving Mike’s gift leaves not one dry eye at FCNI, and reminds each of us that we live in a truly remarkable community.
This holiday season, I will be celebrating my 43rd Christmas. In this time, I have made many holiday memories--some good, some not so good, and some which are still very funny. After all these Christmases, I have one particular memory which sticks out in my mind, and it involved “Santa’s Workshop”. No, I didn’t grow up in the North Pole, but I did grown up in Texas. And every year at my elementary school before school ended for the winter break, the stage in our cafeteria would be transformed into “Santa’s Workshop.” When I say “transformed,” I mean folding tables were set up in rows and a variety of family-satisfying gifts were put out on the tables. Gifts such as coffee mugs displaying slogans like “World’s Best Dad”, ceramic figurines of all sorts, neck ties, aprons, and, yes, even ashtrays (remember, this was over 30 years ago) lined the tables for students to peruse and purchase for different family members as gifts for the holidays. Every year, as I stood on the wooden steps leading to “Santa’s Workshop,” my anxiety would rise in hopes that the children in front of me would not buy the last pet rock which I knew my dad wanted more than anything. As I retell this memory, I am somewhat surprised at how a humble school fundraiser contributed so greatly to the development of my character as an adult and father. “Santa’s Workshop” helped to form generosity within me. It was the first time in my life that I remember thinking about other people and what they would like or need as a gift. This kind of generosity is a character trait that I strive to instill in my own children to this day.