The Kings’ Daughters’ School and local citizens came together this week to bring a little Christmas cheer to kids in need.
Over the last four years, the school, which specializes in caring for children with special needs, celebrates the holidays by raising money to purchase and deliver presents to students who fall under the state’s custody — without families, these children would likely not receive anything from Santa come Christmastime.
This year’s fundraising drew more than $2,000 in donations, mostly from individual citizens, which afforded presents to 17 kids. This included anything TVs and tablet devices to toys and clothing. There was also a $100 donation that provided pizzas.
“This is just a really rewarding thing that happens, and as soon as you tell people about the kids they want to donate,” Ray Turner, a key organizer who dons his Santa Claus suit every year to deliver the presents, said.
“It’s a really good program that I will continue to do as long as I’m physically able to.”
The gifts were presented to the kids Tuesday at Asgard Brewing Co. & Taproom, which is where the annual celebration has typically been held.
“We couldn’t bring the kids here last year, and so we had to take everything to King’s Daughters and had an outside event because of COVID,” Turner said. “Watching the smiles on the kids faces is what makes this all worthwhile.”
Shannon Neff, a recreational therapist at King’s Daughters’, said providing Christmas for state custody kids is one of the school’s most beloved events because it gives the children an opportunity to not only get out and be social, but have a merry Christmas.
It’s also a reflection of the community’s giving nature.
“It’s just amazing that the kids can get out and do stuff like this again,” Neff said. “It’s good to be out in the community again, to see the kids all excited.”
Another aspect of the event that brings joy to the volunteers is coming together the day prior to wrap presents and prep for the big day, especially for new volunteers.
Andrew Shadel of Columbia was one of this year’s first-timers, donating $500 and pitching in to help with the event’s prep work. Shadel said once he learned about the conditions in which the kids were living, he did not hesitate to step up, and that they, more than anybody, deserved a happy holiday.
“It’s hard not to get emotional when you start to understand these kids don’t have their families living with them anymore and are under the state’s custody,” Shadel said.
“They need love, and events like this show the love of Christ for these kids.”