I am releasing my weekly blog on Tuesday rather than on Wednesday to coincide with #GivingTuesday, the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. This is a national movement that celebrates being charitable to others and encourages people to give back to others as we embark on the holiday season. On this day of giving, I am hoping you will consider Hillsides as you look for ways to improve the lives of others. During this time of year, Hillsides receives so many holiday wishes to fulfill, not just for the children who reside here, but for the families and youth in need throughout the community.
Below is the story of Sarah, whose childhood and holiday wishes Hillsides was able to fulfill. As you read her story, please keep in mind that without your generosity, children like Sarah would often not receive anything for the holidays. While presents can’t fix a lifetime of hardship, they bring joy and comfort, and give children the sense that they are cared for and important. Most importantly for children like Sarah, these gifts will last well beyond the holidays and create lifetime memories.
Growing up, Sarah never had a real childhood. The oldest of four, she was thrust into the “mom” role at age 10 when her father abandoned the family and her mother went back to work full-time on the evening shift at a local warehouse. As a result, Sarah was the one making dinner, giving her siblings baths, and changing diapers.
Eventually Sarah’s mom was unable to keep the family together. At age 13, Sarah entered the foster care system. Two years later, when Sarah arrived to live at a group home at Hillsides, her therapists realized that in some ways, she was mature for her age, but in others, she was at the developmental stage of a young child. She was desperate for love and for someone to take care of her. The staff nurtured Sarah by listening to her, validating her feelings, and looking for opportunities to show they cared about her. When she asked for a doll and a miniature tea set for Christmas, they understood her need to connect with a childhood she’d never had. They made sure she received her desired presents. They also arranged for her to get her first-ever brand- new coat and a stocking – something else she’d never had before. Amazed by her gifts, Sarah cried because she never thought she would receive so much and feel so loved.
This holiday season please fulfill the wishes of children and teens, like Sarah, who without your generosity would not receive anything for Christmas.