More Douglas County students needed to help bring holiday joy to thousands of less-fortunate kids
A number of kids from Douglas County have volunteered to help make the holidays a little happier for children from low-income families. They have become “Santa’s Elves” in a program started by a Douglas County mom who wanted to show her child that the holidays are about more than just the gifts under the tree.
“This is about kids giving to other kids who don’t have any presents for Christmas,” explained Jack, a fourth-grader at American Academy charter school in Castle Pines. The self proclaimed ‘Lead Elf’ says he now realizes how blessed he is. “I’m so fortunate. I have an Xbox, I have all these Nerf guns, football stuff and they don’t have much. We need to give back to others.”
Jack’s mom, Deborah Sherman, says it wasn’t always like this. She remembers when Jack was only four and everything was “I want…I want…I want!!!”
Sherman, an FBI agent – who is recognizable from her time as an investigative reporter at 9NEWS and public information officer at the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office – says she couldn’t stand it any more. She wanted to find a way to show Jack how to appreciate what he had, but had no luck when she called charities and homeless shelters to find a place where she and Jack could volunteer. The groups were reluctant to let kids be involved.
Sherman and her friends, Jennifer Ramirez and Stella Castro, decided to start their own charity, KidsGiving365. The non-profit is just for kids, with the goal of exposing them to other worlds, teaching them how to make a difference, and letting them feel and experience the joy of helping less fortunate children in their own backyards.
“I remember sitting on my mom’s lap [seven years ago],” Jack recalled. “She told me, ‘we are going to help some kids this year.’ She had me put in a couple of dollars so we could help a family.”
The event has grown, but just like in the beginning, any child, their families, schools, clubs and businesses can get involved. Through the KidsGiving365 website, they have the ability to choose a family and then shop for the kids, using their wish list.
The givers serve the poorest, most neglected neighborhoods in Colorado, located in the crowded subsidized Denver projects. On average the parents of the receiving children earn just $10,500 a year.
Unlike the typical giving tree programs, however, the kids get to meet the families they are giving to during the Santa’s Elves event on Saturday, December 9.
“I really like giving the presents, because you get to see how happy it makes the person and you realize that you are making that happen for them that they couldn’t have otherwise,” said Maya, a sixth-grader at DCS Montessori in Castle Pines. “I think that is a pretty amazing part of all of it.”
Maya’s older sister Gabi, agreed.
“It is great that we get to meet the people, because you get to see the joy that you bring them when you give them a gift,” Gabi said. “That is pretty cool.”
Sherman says that the event is something that she, Jack and the rest of the kids and families look forward to every year.
“It was just beautiful. There are so many beautiful moments that happened that day. This is what Christmas is all about,” Sherman said. “I get so busy working that I literally have to stop myself and say look around you – and you just witness all these small little miracles and amazing moments.”
Maya and Gabi have been involved from the beginning and over the past seven years, the moment that stands out was when their family had the opportunity to bring the presents to the home of one of the receiving families.
“There was one time that we couldn’t make it to the actual event to give our gifts to them, so we went to their house instead to give them their presents. We all sat together [as they opened their gifts],” Gabi said. “Their house was smaller and they didn’t have as much as us, but they were still making the most out of it. They are thankful for everything they have.”
“In many ways we are similar,” Maya added. “ We are all human beings, but we are different in the opportunities we have. Santa’s Elves really helps to give them what we have.”
“It has taught me that giving to others is just as good as receiving, Gabi said. “It is not all about having the latest iPhone or the latest toy. You still have more than other people do. You can recognize it and make a change to help these people.”
The organization is looking for more elves.
“The need is greater than ever this year,” Sherman said. “There are still 400 kids who need help and won’t have presents under the tree.”
“I’ve been talking to other people in my classroom and encouraging them to do it,” Jack said. “I want them to have the same experience I have. “
Join the effort today by going to KidsGiving365.org.