"Christmas for the Community" Celebration
What local event brings University of Florida athletes, a local church, Santa Clause and even "The World's Smallest Horse" together? It's called Christmas for the Community and it provided more than just presents for families in need.
Over 150 foster children, 30 Shands at UF patients and their families gathered at the University City Church of Christ Family Life Center today for music, food and of course, presents. But the honored guests said this event is more than just a Christmas party. Javeyon Wooden said, "I ate food, I saw a play and got presents and had a very great time."
The event was started by the church, the Alachua County Partnership For Strong Families and other community groups 14 years ago with a simple goal: to give presents to needy children.
Organizer Donny Dillon said, "The gifts are very significant. They're wishes that the children provide...and they provide a wish list of three wishes and we provide one of those wishes."
Although presents are a big part of the celebration, the focus is more on encouraging the children and families who attend.
Foster Mom Lorraine Caidwell is in the process of adopting her foster daughter Karrah. She said, "A lot of foster children out there who don't have anybody, and don't have anything. And this is just an amazing thing that the community would come together and support a thing like this and help the children that are really in need."
The event featured a Christmas play, miniature horses, Gator athletes, caroling and a big meal. But for families, the best part was meeting others who are going through the same joys and challenges.
Christina Hamm has 2 adopted daughters and 2 foster children. She said, "To be able to gather with people who have those same experiences is very nice because unless you go through it you don't know where they're coming from."
Volunteers also got a lot out of the experience. UF student Zach Aldridge said, "I just like seeing the kids running around real happy once they ran up and got their gifts. And just look at it, they're happy, then they get to jump in the bounce house and see the mini-horses...it's just nice to see a smile be put on their faces."
And in the gift giving season, families pause to remember their greatest gifts.
Caidwell said, "She is just so precious and she is the greatest gift I could've asked for."
If you missed the event, you can still drop off toy donations to the University City Church of Christ located at 4626 NW 8th Avenue.
The children should receive your gifts just before Christmas.
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