12-13-14. This date is not the only thing special about last Saturday. For 244 children and 104 adults, a festive event called Breakfast with Santa made this day even more special.
This time of year, there’s so much going on and Christmas lists feel never-ending. It’s easy to forget there are families in our community who struggle to provide a cheerful holiday for their loved ones. That’s where the YMCA of Greater Indianapolis at the Athenaeum comes in.
With the help of 102 volunteers, the YMCA shined a bit of light into the lives of families from local shelters and underprivileged after-school programs. It provided a hearty breakfast, gifts, entertainment, and even a guest appearance from Santa himself. And although the YMCA has been doing this event for the past several years, 2014 is the very first year the children were able to shop for their parent(s) or significant adult figure(s), hopefully learning that giving is just as much fun as receiving.
Among the 102 volunteers, 19 FirstPeeps volunteered their Saturday morning to be a helper elf for a family in need. My husband, Ben, and I were prepared to work the Kid’s German Market. Yet, as the families kept coming and the elf line dwindled, we were pulled over to assist with a family instead.
Decked out in reindeer antlers and an elf hat for my husband, we headed over to meet Kiristin and her three daughters, Nariya (11), Keinistin (7), and Karyja (1). After some introductions, I held the baby as Ben led the others through the buffet line to fill their plates with some delicious breakfast.
As they ate their eggs, sausage, potatoes, and fresh fruit, we got to know them better. The whole family was a little shy and reserved, but we learned that they came from the Julian Center Shelter and foster care. Nariya, who was most excited about the presents, explained she wanted Santa to give her farm animal toys and Keinistin, of course, wanted anything from the movie Frozen.
After the plates were cleared and the girls decorated their gift bags, Ben and I had to divide and conquer between the Adult and Kid German Markets. To my surprise, Ben wanted to shop with the three little girls for their mom. Ben carried the baby like a princess as the older girls were directed by their mom to “make sure to stay with Mr. Ben.” I led Kiristin upstairs so we could pick out a gift, book, gloves, and stocking for each girl.
When it came time to wrap the gifts, Kiristin was a little nervous and explained that she wasn’t very good at wrapping. Luckily, an extra volunteer helped speed up the process as Kiristin wrote the girls names on each of their presents and stockings. Although soft spoken the whole morning, Kiristin’s face lit up as we were shopping and exclaimed, “This was so much fun!” It was clear to me that she was so grateful for all the generosity and the event seemed to lift her spirits.
Although the girls were initially most excited about presents, it became clear that this day was more than just about gifts. It was about cherishing the time their family could spend together. Ben and I then stood back to let the family watch the African dancing entertainment. We shared our shopping experience, and he told me the girls were very well behaved.
Once the entertainment came to an end, we helped the girls gather their jackets, all the gifts, and the table-top Christmas tree to take home to enjoy. They snapped a quick picture with Santa and said their good-byes.
I’m very thankful that I was a part of this event for the first time and hope that this inspires you to not only give back to those less fortunate, but also to slow down and reflect on the year that is ending and treasure time spent with your loved ones.