AJAX — Last Christmas, Ajax resident Mary Pomeroy-Brown was on a frantic search for the perfect gift for a little girl she had never met.
Ms. Pomeroy-Brown was looking for iCarly gear for a child whose Christmas wish list she had adopted through the Dreams and Wishes organization. Through the Santa’s Dreams programs, volunteers like Ms. Pomeroy-Brown purchase Christmas presents for children in Durham shelters including Herizon House, Y’s Wish and Denise House.
“Christmas is for children and they should have memories, no matter their life experience, they should have good memories,”
She heard about the idea from charity founder and president Denise Stahl, also an Ajax resident.
“She told me about the organization; we had a long conversation about what it was about,” said Ms. Pomeroy-Brown. “I love children so I was taken up by the idea.”â?¨ Teaming up with her daughters, Ms. Pomeroy-Brown adopted three Christmas lists last year. Items on the lists included pajamas and hoodies for boys.
“Christmas is for children and they should have memories, no matter their life experience, they should have good memories,” said Ms. Pomeroy-Brown. Because the lists are all personal, she said it’s easy to take ownership of the gifts, choosing as carefully as one would for family.
Ms. Stahl said the response from shelters has been very positive because Dreams and Wishes is the only organization to personalize the gifts for the kids. Last year more than 100 kids received gifts through the program.
In addition to the presents, each child receives a personal letter from Santa where he talks about himself.
“Santa likes all kinds of things, he likes dancing with Mrs. Claus to High School Musical,” said Ms. Stahl, adding if the child is a big Lego fan, Santa loves Lego.
Ms. Stahl explained that just like at home, Santa can’t always swing everything on the list, especially for older kids who may ask for expensive electronics.
But generally the kids don’t ask for extravagant presents.
“They realize the situation they’re in and don’t ask for $100 gifts,” said Ms. Pomeroy-Brown.
If they do, Ms. Stahl said it’s understandable.
“Why do people think children in the shelter would ask for anything different from children at home?” said Ms. Stahl, who added that Santa does his best choosing personal gifts for kids even if it can’t be the big-ticket items.
She said she feels a lot of sympathy for the parents because holidays can add extra stress when they can’t give their kids what they’re asking for.
“Little kids don’t understand. They truly believe in Santa and we want them to, but it puts a lot of stress on the parents.”
In addition to the Santa’s Dreams program, Dreams and Wishes organizes breakfasts with Santa for kids referred through community organizations and children’s aid societies.
During the year, the Birthday Wishes Program helps families who can’t afford to throw a birthday party for their child by providing the supplies for a birthday party. An annual Un-Birthday Celebration is held for children residing in shelters whose families cannot host a party.
The newest program is the Comfort Dream Bags program where each child entering a shelter receives a bag with a new pair of pajamas, slippers, toiletries and a stuffed animal.
Surprisingly, pajamas are one of the most requested items on the Christmas wish list.
Dreams and Wishes is still looking for families, business groups and individuals to make Christmas wishes come true and Ms. Stahl said she’s still getting lists.
“You don’t have to buy everything on the list, it’s really what you feel comfortable with and can afford,” she said.
Story by Reka Szekely
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