Help Kids with Toys and a Tradition

Everyone has a different version of what the holidays looked like when they were growing up. Many have chosen to carry on those same traditions with their own children. Whether you celebrated Christmas, Hanukkah, Yuletide or Kwanzaa, you most likely were surrounded by loved ones and family. After all, that is what the holiday season is all about.

Sarah Benitez
Sarah Benitez

Unfortunately, not all children have the same happy experiences. Some spend the holiday times in group homes, residential or independent living facilities or foster homes. Some do get gifts and some do not. But they are missing those traditions that helped make some of our holidays so memorable. And for the almost 2,400 children and youth we serve here at SaintA, it’s just not the same as being in their homes.

So, four years ago, Program Director Lisa Vega and numerous other SaintA employees took it upon themselves to give the children of SaintA a tradition of their own. They started providing toys to 1,350 children in what is now known as the First Annual Toy Drive. Now, four years later, SaintA and JCI Greater Milwaukee, a young professionals group, have come together to host what we hope to be the first of many “Stuff the Truck” Toy Drive events.

With the help of Dave and Buster’s restaurant in Wauwatosa, which has provided their parking lot space for free, and UHAUL, which is graciously donating the truck; we will be helping to carry on the tradition. We hope to provide not only toys to 2,400 children, but also a tradition of their own.

On Nov. 28, Black Friday, from 6 a.m.-3 p.m., and Nov. 29, Small Business Saturday, from 9 a.m.-3 p.m., you’ll find us and our truck at Dave and Buster’s, Mayfair Road just south of North Avenue. Anyone who would like to help keep this tradition alive for SaintA’s children can donate an unwrapped gift or a gift card with a value up to $15.

If you decide to take advantage of the Black Friday sales to stretch your gift money a little further, we will continue to collect toys until Dec. 5 with canisters at Dave and Buster’s and the Beulah Brinton Community Center in Bay View. Donations also can be brought to SaintA, and checks can be sent to the agency, 8901 W. Capitol Drive, Milwaukee 53222, as well. Checks should be made out to SaintA, with Toy Drive in the memo line.

Sometimes as the work days get longer, the weather gets colder, and the dark arrives much sooner, we who work directly with the children we serve may forget why we enjoy it so much. This time of year is our chance to slow down, to remember and to remind them all that they are special.

In the words of author and life coach Susan Lieberman, “Traditions counter alienation and confusion. They help us define who we are; they provide something steady, reliable and safe in a confusing world.”

I am proud and humbled to become a part of this tradition, and I hope you will be too.

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