On Thursday, The Genesis Convention Center in Gary was filled with over 500 smiles as kids from all over Northwest Indiana gathered to meet Santa, make thank you cards, and experience the joy of opening presents a little early.
This was the second year Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Northwest Indiana held the Christmas to Remember event. The goal was to help those children who may not get the chance to have a memorable Christmas. Staff members and volunteers worked tirelessly to make sure the venue was filled with enough joy to surprise even Santa Claus. They knew their hard work paid off when they saw the amount of joy expressed on Thursday, but know there is always more that can be done.
“Seeing the kids' faces light up when they walk in here is so exciting,” said Carol Donovan, a volunteer from Greater Indiana Title. “We were able to get 500 kids involved this year and that's so great.”
The amount of lives changed is no small feat. The number of kids participating has gone up over 100 since the start of the annual event last year. Randy Hall, President of Luxor Homes, helped spearhead last year’s event. He helped create something special for the kids thanks to the strong support of the community.
“We are trying to hit the maximum level of need that we can,” Hall said. “We wanted to have these kids meet some local heroes so they could have someone to look up to. Thanks to everyone who has helped, we can celebrate as one giant community.”
The holidays can bring great joy, but can also come with great stress. Not everyone may see it, but to put on an event like this you have a little bit of both. Anyone who was part of the day will tell you, though, that it is worth every bit of it.
“There is a lot of hard work and logistics that go into this,” said Stephanie Hamilton, Director of Marketing for Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Northwest Indiana. “Whenever you see a kid smile though, that’s the only thing that matters. This is for our kids, every one of them deserves to have a Christmas.”
There is no doubt that the smiles and memories of a great Christmas will be in the minds of not just the kids, but the volunteers who helped put everything together.
“I watched a little girl open up a coat, and get so excited and say this is what she needed,” said Ryan Smiley, CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Northwest Indiana. “That's the magic of what we are trying to accomplish. It's not just the wants, it’s the needs.”