Last weekend we volunteered at a Winter Wonderland put on by the Foster a Dream foundation. Foster kids from all over were able to come and have some holiday fun, and leave with lots of presents and treats.
I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but this time of year especially makes you feel like you should be doing something for other people, like it should be about more than just getting gifts, so I signed up, and the boy decided to join me.
We showed up for our four hour shift, and we were really impressed. An entire warehouse had been transformed into Santa’s Workshop, there were tons of decorations, and lots of different stations for the kids to go around to with different activities at each.
They didn’t tell us ahead of time what we were going to be doing, there are lots of different jobs for volunteers, but both of us were assigned to be elves, meaning we were paired with a foster family with from 1 to 4 kids and we took them through the Wonderland, and helped them have fun along the way.
The kids got their pictures taken with Santa, decorated cookies, made crafts, played games and did science experiments, and at the end of each activity they usually left with a prize. Experienced foster parents came with trash bags and extra strollers just to carry all of the different toys the kids got to take home.
Most of the kids’ favourite part was the Toy Room, they got to go in by themselves and other volunteers inside helped them pick out any 3 things they wanted from inside. One of the first little girl’s I was paired with walked out with an American Girl doll, and she was absolutely on the verge of a panic attack she was so excited.
Another family I was paired with had identical twins, a boy and a girl about 7 years old, they were probably the sweetest and most polite 7 year old’s I’ve ever met.
The little boy was missing part of his left arm, but he went up to the basketball game and scored 12 out of 20 times. His foster mother was almost in tears, as she whispered to me that she had been nervous that he wouldn’t be able to make any of the shots.
I was wearing an elf apron, and Derek was wearing an elf hat with ears. The same little boy and girl were decorating cookies when Derek walked by and they both looked at me with huge eyes and whispered excitedly “It’s an elf, a real elf!”. Derek came over to talk to them, and answered all of their questions about what it was like to work for Santa.
It was a very tiring day, between carrying bags and bags of toys through the toyland and corralling groups of excited children through the stations, being an elf is hard work.
But it was also a really great day, the Christmas season is so exciting through the eyes of a child, and I felt very lucky to have been there to be able to make their day as much fun as possible. It’s a really great cause and I’d like to keep working with the Foster a Dream foundation throughout the year, as much as I can.