Last Saturday I was able to help out at the Inner City Scholarship Fund’s Christmas Party, put together every year by the Junior Committee. From the outside, Our Lady Queen of Angels Catholic Elementary School in East Harlem didn’t look too festive, but once I went inside and down to the basement, I immediately found the Christmas cheer. The basement had been transformed into a child’s wonderland, with tables covered in red and green, each one a different arts and crafts station. Towards the back of the room, I saw a big comfy chair surrounded by presents and decorations, clearly for Santa, which got me (and the kids) pretty excited.
Before the party got started, volunteers and members of the ICSF Junior Committee set up each table with a different activity: cookie and cupcake decorating, ornament making, decorations, and jewelry making. We also had to put together goodie bags for the kids (1st and 2nd graders) to take home after the party, which included coloring books, crayons, Radio City key chains, necklaces and pencils (all of which were generously donated).
As soon as the kids came in, it was every man and woman for themselves. The only thing us volunteers really had to do was have fun with the kids and help them if they had problems with any of the projects. Luckily, the projects were easy to explain and age-appropriate, so we mostly just got to have fun. The jewelry-making tables were a big hit with the girls, who made tons of cute bracelets for themselves and to give as presents. I started off at one of the ornament-making tables, where I helped some of the boys put together and paint miniature wooden sleds. I kept getting distracted by the giggles at the adjacent table, which was covered in candy. I hadn’t realized how much stuff was on the cookie decorating table: gum drops, swedish fish, sprinkles, icing, cookies, cupcakes. What kid wouldn’t want to sit at a table and do whatever they want with that stuff? I could hardly control myself and I’m 26.
After about two hours of crafts and sugar rushes, it was time to entice Santa with some carols. The Junior Committee made caroling books and everyone sang together until we heard the jingle bells: Santa and two elves made their way towards the kids, who were screaming and jumping and hugging each other. As an adult, somehow, I’ve never been in a room full of children when Santa arrives; it gave me chills (the good kind) to see how happy they were. Pure joy. Just by seeing a guy in a red suit. Ahh, to be young again.
After everyone calmed down, Santa sat in his chair and read ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’. It was so quiet you could hear a pin drop, which is amazing considering how many cookies those kids ate. After the story everyone lined up to take their picture with Santa and make their Christmas wishes. However, I feel I should mention that one girl chose not to take her picture with this particular Santa, because she knew he was a fake; no, she declared, she would be going to Sears to see the REAL Santa later that week. Kids…they say the darndest things…
Throughout the morning I heard more than one child say “this is the best day of my life”. I must admit-I may have had more fun than some of the kids. I love crafting. And cookies. The ICSF Junior Committee did a great job putting this together, sparing no details, and I can safely assume that everyone who showed up -young or old- left with a lot more holiday cheer than they came with. They were nice enough to share their photos from the day, taken by photographer Chris La Putt:
Photos courtesy of Chris La Putt
The Junior Committee supports ICSF students by organizing a variety of programs, including monthly trips to NYC cultural institutions, tutoring and athletics programs, annual parties and community-service initiatives. For more information about the programs and how to get involved, click here.