There’s nothing better than seeing the joy on our families’ faces when we give them gifts for the holidays. Many parents hide the toys so they can give them as gifts from Santa. But how do you hide toys when your entire family is living in one room in a shelter? One mom explained: “I put them all in a black garbage bag, stuff them under the bed and tell the kids it’s a bag of dirty laundry!”
This holiday season, thanks to our sponsors and donors, we distributed gifts to more than 500 children living in our five partner shelter sites in Washington, D.C. And hosted holiday parties at each site. Every child received at least two gifts that they requested from their Wish List. Our families are deeply grateful to so many of you who sponsored children and purchased items from our Amazon Wish Lists to make this an extra special holiday for them.
With your support we were able to fulfill every wish list that came in from each family, as well as provide gifts to families who arrived at the shelters after the Wish List deadline. We received countless wonderful messages from parents. One mom said, “I want to personally thank Playtime from my whole heart, for all that you do with and for the children. I appreciate you all so much! God Bless you.” Another said, “I love Playtime! Y’all always come through for our kids!”
One mom of a three-year-old boy had missed the deadline to get the Wish List back to Sarah Fraser, the Playtime Site Manager at Quality Inn, so she asked if we had any extra gifts available. “Anything would be fine,” said the mom. Fortunately, Sarah had set aside a Thomas the Tank Engine set and a stuffed toy, because she knew the boy loved trains. His mom was so happy she started to cry and had to sit down. She explained that it had been a really tough year and had felt so bad for not having anything for her son. “Thank y’all so much. Y’all made my day. You don’t even know how excited he’s going to be to get this.”
A group of volunteers including long-time volunteer, Kathleen Fawcett, spent three days preparing for and distributing gifts to families at the Hotel Arboretum and Days Inn overflow shelters. Kathleen remembered one particular mom, who appeared completely overwhelmed with surprise and joy when she received gifts for each of her four children, ages two to seven. Her face glowed bright and her hand immediately covered her mouth as she gasped. “Okay, I just have to hug you,” said the mom, as tears filled her eyes. “I can’t even tell you how grateful I am, so I HAVE to hug you.”
“Parents told us that they were anxious and overwhelmed, and we sent them away with smiles and bags with gifts, and invitations to come back for Playtime,” Kathleen said. “As we finished up passing out the last of the toys, a mom sitting in a chair waiting to see if we had anything that would work for her children grinned ear to ear as we approached with two Barbie dolls for her preteen girls. 'Those are perfect,' she said. 'You all don’t know what a blessing you are to my family.’”