“I wonder if Santa will even know how to find me this year?”

November 22, 2021


Dan Shufelt

Rayetta Sanchez, the Community Liaison for the Arizona Department of Child Safety (“DCS”) shared this question from a child in foster care with me a number of years ago. It’s a sentiment that is not uncommon among the 13,000+ children currently in our state’s foster care system. These boys and girls have experienced disruption in their lives, some being moved multiple times, in search of their own forever home. What a sad sentiment for any youngster, during what is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year.

The DCS, and many charities, step up their efforts every holiday season to put smiles on the faces of children. Organizations that serve children in foster care, including Arizona Helping Hands, Helen’s Hope Chest and ASA Now are collecting toys, books and other items to help make the holidays joyful. Three Precious Miracles places particular focus on Native American foster families.

Other organizations provide holiday assistance to underserved populations. Harvest Compassion Centers expects to distribute more than 10,000 toys during the month of December to families struggling through these ongoing days of the pandemic. Arizona Cancer Foundation for Children is seeking donors to adopt a family during the holiday season. There are a multitude of groups that are trying to spread the joy over the coming weeks to children who don’t experience happiness often enough.

Rayetta wants to make sure that Santa can find every child in the foster care system. She helped to grow The Giving Tree, a program through which donors can provide toys and holiday gifts to boys and girls. Each child has basic information listed on the sign-up forms, and donors are requested to play Santa to make their wishes come true. 17-year-old Vanessa’s wish list includes gift cards to Amazon and Target, and 3-year-old Evandor wears size 4T clothes and likes spiderman. Many of the tweens and teens love the gift card option, giving them the opportunity to shop for a few of their favorite things, or to purchase gifts for the important people in their lives.

As the website states, “The Giving Tree program offers a way to bring joy to children in foster care. This isn’t your average toy drive! Receiving personalized gifts helps children feel loved and significant during a time of year that can be extremely difficult, AND it’s a fun way to give back!”

The DCS staff will deliver the gifts directly to the children, including teens and young adults in DCS care – those who are frequently forgotten this time of year.

The Holiday Season is a great time to think about others. Please consider supporting one of the many great charities that work extra hard during November and December. There is so much more fulfillment to be had in giving than in receiving, and no greater satisfaction than knowing you are bringing joy into the life of a child.

Please visit the Giving Tree website, or google the charities listed herein, to learn more about how you can support their holiday programs, and to ensure that Santa will know where every boy and girl can be found this holiday season.

Dan Shufelt, the former CEO of Arizona Helping Hands, has been involved in the charity world as an executive and grant maker for many years.

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