The room went from a roar to a hush when Santa walked in. The kids knew they would soon get their chance to tell the big man their hopes and wishes this Christmas.
For too many of the 90 kids at the Breakfast with Santa hosted by the Appleton-Fox Cities (Wisconsin) Kiwanis Club, this would be the only time they would get a gift during the holiday season. Their immediate futures are in flux. The kids, who range in age from infants to teenagers, are homeless—living in shelters because of various family circumstances. Some of their parents are fleeing domestic abuse situations. Others have fallen on hard times.
“We, as a Kiwanis club, want to make sure every child gets something from Santa,” said Jay Stephany, one of the event organizers. “For some of these kids, this might be the only present they get for the holidays.”
Members of the Appleton-Fox Cities Kiwanis Club host a Christmas party each year for children who are homeless because of various family circumstances.
Some of the kids were nervous when they approached Santa. You could see excitement on the faces of others. Some of the little ones were in tears, not knowing what to think of the jolly, fat man in a red suit.
“You get that feeling of joy watching the children,” Stephany said. “But then you remember the reality that these kids will go back to and it just breaks your heart. But, if we were able to give these kids just two hours away from their reality, it was well worth it.”
The club has been hosting a breakfast with Santa for members’ kids and grandkids for years. In 2010, they decided to move the event to the local children’s museum and invite children served by partner organizations after seeing a need for this kind of service project. Since then, the breakfast has tripled in size.
“It’s one of my most favorite projects we do,” Stephany said.
Key Club members help at the Appleton-Fox Cities Christmas with Santa breakfast.
The kids leave with gifts from footballs to hair braiding supplies. Each gift costs the club about US$7. A grant from We Energies, the local power company, helps with some of the expenses. The rest comes from fundraisers held throughout the year to fund a long list of service projects.
“I look at the things we do and the people we work with and Kiwanians are the ones who make it happen,” Stephany said. “It’s an honor to be a part of this club.”
It’s a club making a difference for children in Appleton and Fox Cities because kids need Kiwanis there and in communities around the world.