Many families are looking forward to gathering this holiday season after so much time apart. Imagine what it is like for children who were removed from their homes and placed in foster care in the last few months – finding themselves in a new home or new school as they cope with the trauma of abuse or neglect. Sadly, hundreds of children in the Omaha community who have experienced abuse or neglect will be separated from their family during the holidays.
CASA for Douglas County has hosted the CASA Kids Holiday Party since 2008 as a way to help kids in foster care experience joy during the holiday season. For the past several years, CASA has hosted the party at the Omaha Children's Museum, with a hiatus this past year due to the COVID pandemic. Children have fun with the museum's interactive exhibits, enjoy dinner and snacks, pose with siblings or their CASA at the photo booth, visit with Santa, unwrap their holiday gifts, and make countless positive memories.
In the months leading up to the Holiday Party, CASA volunteers and staff are busy organizing the logistical details and engaging in fundraising efforts. CASA volunteers take time during child visits to ask children for their special holiday gift requests. It takes the support of the entire community to ensure that the children's gift requests are fulfilled and to create a fun and memorable event. Recruitment Coordinator Jordan Fletcher, leader of CASA's Holiday Party planning committee, shares the impact that this annual event can have in a child's life and the importance of community support:
Why does CASA host an annual Holiday Party for CASA kids?
It is so important for CASA to host the annual CASA Kids Holiday Party so the children our advocates serve can feel some sort of normalcy in a world of unknowns. When everything is unknown in a child's life, this party allows them an opportunity to have a worry-free evening full of fun. The event allows them to be a child and experience the 'magic' of the season. From infants, toddlers, tweens, teens, and everything in between, the party is a fun way for the children to bond with their CASA volunteer while doing something that is just for them!
Do you have a favorite Holiday Party memory?
This is difficult - there's so many to choose from! My favorite one is probably when we had an older teen who had been in foster care for several years. Her siblings had been adopted, and she didn't get the opportunity to see them often. The holiday party for several years was the one time per year the siblings could get together, have an opportunity to catch up on each other's lives and simply be a family. They also were able to take sibling photos at the holiday party that otherwise would not have been possible.
Why is it important for members of the community to support the Holiday Gift Drive?
The community is truly the heart of the Holiday Gift Drive. Amazing community members and organizations come together to support the kids we serve. These gifts allow the child to have something they have specifically chosen and are wishing for. They have something that is theirs and it is our hope the gift is associated with wonderful members from the holiday party! The amount of children continues to grow and the need for passionate community members is greater than ever!
What is your favorite story about a Holiday Gift Drive donor?
My favorite story about gift drive donor occurred last year. An organization that supports another nonprofit's holiday needs had purchased all of that nonprofit's gifts, and several individuals that still wanted to give. They contacted us and fulfilled so many gift requests from our Amazon Wishlist. It was such an incredible act of kindness and we were so thankful for all the generosity this organization displayed to not only our agency but others as well!
The community plays a vital role in helping over 500 kids in foster care experience holiday cheer. Learn about purchasing a gift from the Amazon Wishlist, making a donation to the Holiday Party fund, or organizing a board game drive at casaomaha.org/news-events/holiday-party.html.