For nearly 10 years, I have been lucky to be included in a group of women – a fabulous idea dreamed up by the kindness, and generous spirit of my friend Mary Ellen. She shared her spark of inspiration during an “I have an idea, whaddaya think?” moment on a morning beach walk.
She recognized that many of the tremendous Holiday donation programs focus on small children. Teenagers existing in the awkward space between childhood and adulthood, are often forgotten. She knew exactly which organization she wanted to work with.
A few months later, Christmas Chicks were officially hatched! The flock includes approximately (85) women.
Every year, each of the Christmas Chicks are “paired with” a teenage girl who is a permanent resident of a group home.Girls in the care of this wonderful organization, have been removed from their family because it was an unsafe situation for them.
Their abuser may have been a parent, a family member or perhaps their Mom’s boyfriend. While each girl’s situation is unique, they all have one thing in common: the adults in their life have failed them through abuse, failure to protect them, and broken promises. Everyone in their life has let them down. Sadly, sometimes Mom chooses the abuser over own her daughter.
During the holiday season, they become our girls. They are asked to make a wish list of (3) items.
Each year, shortly before Thanksgiving, each Christmas Chick receives her girl’s name and Christmas list, and then……she gets her Santa on! She purchases the three items on the list…and only what is on the list.
This is possibly my favorite shopping to do during the Christmas season, because I know it has such an impact on the recipient.
Thankfully, my loved ones are blessed to have warm woolen mittens, sparkly things, and techie gadgets that beep and tweet.The joy of shopping for them results from finding something unexpected that I know they will enjoy.
Kids in foster care or in the care of an agency often times don’t have many personal possessions. Our girls give careful and thoughtful consideration to writing their list.
Over the years, I have purchased typical teenage girl things: pink hoodies, basketballs, Tinkerbell and Betty Boop stuff, cameras, scrapbooking supplies, Victoria’s Secret body mist, Bath & Body Works products, and every year it seems: a blow dryer.
The unwrapped gifts are put into large Christmas gift bags.
On a Thursday evening in December, Mary Ellen hosts all the Christmas Chicks for a lovely and very lively evening of holiday cheer – including in past years, a reindeer game…of dice. Nothin’ like dozens of women frantically rolling dice into pie tins,squealing for doubles, and running to claim, or even better yet – steal a prize. It is a mad frenzy, because the stakes are high! I mean, one year I scored an entire case of Costco toilet paper!
Due to the organization’s policy of confidentiality, the Christmas Chicks never actually meet their girls. The party also serves as a means for gift gathering, as Kimberly and her elves efficiently wade through a sea of large Christmas gift bags and organize it all. The gifts are collected, so the girls can receive them on Christmas morning.
I missed the fun of the Christmas Chicks party last night, but I know the Chicks were kickin’ up their heels and shakin’ their tail feathers on the dance floor!
While I didn’t make the party, I did get to enjoy shopping for Maria! The items on my Maria’s list were:
- Boom box with AM/FM and CD player
- Blow dryer (1875 watts please)
I love this list, because the items on it are transformative for a teenage girl.
As a curly-haired girl who endured my teenage years before the advent of ionic blow dryers, styling products, and the heaven-sent Brazilian blowout, I know the importance of a good blow dryer. I hope the one Maria receives will allow her to face her challenges with the self-confidence gained from feeling well-groomed.
We all know how music can enrich our life, soothe our soul, touch our heart and motivate us to shake our groove thing. I hope the boom box Maria receives provides a soundtrack for her teenage years: background tunes for a study session, a comfort during heartbreak or disappointment, and a dance party when she’s celebrating with the girls.
I smiled when I saw that Maria wanted to journal.Writing is therapeutic in many ways. I know the clarity that can be gained from making a list, and that writing is a powerful way to process emotion. I also know that, if you never dream it…it will never be. I hope writing is a step towards healing Maria’s heart, and I hope she fills the journal with dreams. Really big dreams.
As the Director of these homes has expressed, the gifts mean more than Christmas morning presents and material possessions. To the girls, it means someone followed through. Someone made a promise,and kept it. Often for the first time in their life, they weren’t let down by an adult. Even though, it’s a person they will never meet, it gives them hope.
Sure, the Chicks follow the rules and put only three gifts in the bag, but somehow the bags overflow with two additional treasures to cherish: love and hope.
To me, that feels like a little bit of Christmas magic.
*Name has been changed