Santa’s elves were surely at work tonight during Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Northwest Indiana’s fifth annual A Christmas to Remember event. Through this event, the holiday wish lists of 500 children in the Region are being fulfilled thanks to the efforts of the 10 Clubs and their volunteers.
“The children are getting to experience a joyous holiday season,” said the Clubs’ Director of Community Outreach Wendy Mang. “We have 500 of our Club members throughout Lake and Porter County that are going to come tonight. They will have dinner, do a thank you card to Santa, and then they get the night for them. The highlight of the night is that they get to see Santa and open their gifts.”
Before the event happens, the Clubs have children write letters to Santa about what they want for Christmas. This, alongside guardian-provided information like clothing sizes, gives the Clubs a good idea of what to buy to make every child’s night special.
“The letters can be heartwarming, and they can be heartbreaking,” said Mang. “I read all 500 lists that I received. The lists include clothing needs and basic toiletries that the average person doesn't think twice about getting. There are teens or young ones that are asking for these as a Christmas gift, which can be heartbreaking. There was one young man that wanted to get flowers and chocolate to give to a girl that he likes. It runs the gamut, and it's really heart-touching.”
Once the Clubs know what to shop for, the volunteers go to the stores and do the actual shopping with money fundraised over the year. The gifts are then wrapped and labeled for the A Christmas to Remember event.
The event is more than just a night of presents for the kids. Beyond the gifts they receive, children also get the opportunity to meet people from throughout the Region who can serve them as mentors and role models.
"We have a wide range of people who will be coming to volunteer, whether they are a board member, our donors, or various volunteer groups throughout Lake and Porter County who come and donate their time,” said Mang. “Many volunteers shop for a child, wrap gifts or attend the night of and all of them get to experience the joy of this event in one way or another.”
Events like A Christmas to Remember have an impact that extends far past the night they occur. For the Clubs, the impact A Christmas to Remember has on the kids and the people helping to see the event come to fruition is what’s really important.
“I was a Club kid,” said Kris Condon, vice president of human resources and operations with the Clubs. “I was on the board of directors for Boys & Girls Clubs of Porter County. When the Northwest Indiana and Porter County branches merged, I left my career to come here. I’ve been to every one of these events and it’s fantastic. The kids when they open the presents and the joy that you see on their face? It's priceless.”
“Seeing the kids’ excitement is very fulfilling,” said Amy Kezy, vice president of business banking with Centier’s Valparaiso team. “They get so excited to see Santa, to open their gifts, to work on artwork. It's just incredible. The kids are so grateful for their gifts.”
Thanks to the continued support of the Northwest Indiana community, children across the Region are able to have a Christmas they might not have been able to otherwise. As the A Christmas to Remember event grows in popularity, the Clubs are hoping to expand their network of volunteers and sponsors so they can continue to provide unforgettable experiences to children in the area.
This certainly was A Christmas to Remember for the many children involved, and it’s through the efforts of the Clubs and their network of supporters that the holidays are feeling extra cheerful this winter.
To learn more about or get involved with Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Northwest Indiana, visit the website at bgcgreaternwi.org.