Christmas Is All Around Us
On Saturday, December 20, 2014, the HeartFelt Foundation celebrated its 35th Annual Holiday Service Project. This marked the last such event organized by Patti Rayner, Director of the HeartFelt Foundation before she retires. 3,000 of Los Angeles’s most at-risk children and their families attended the Christmas celebration on a private section of the Santa Monica Pier. Even though they live in Los Angeles, many of these children had never seen the ocean before, ridden a carousel or seen –never mind, touch –real farm animals.
The families arrived at 11am and as soon as the gates opened the children raced to the toy tent to receive their Christmas gift. They emerged with toys and huge teddy bears, some as big as themselves, and with even bigger smiles on their faces. After feasting on tacos, hot dogs, popcorn, churros, cookies, hot chocolate and coffee (for the adults, of course) they scattered to enjoy all of the wonderful events hosted at the pier.
With the help of some very friendly elves, Santa and Mrs. Claus welcomed the children and their families to take photos with them, sit on Santa’s lap, and receive warm hugs and a big “Ho, ho, ho!” On the other side of the pier a bunch of happy farm animals were waiting to be petted and fed snacks by the children- even a pair of fluffy bunnies that couldn’t wait to be held! There were little basketball hoops, and sponges to throw at volunteers sticking their heads out of snowmen and reindeer cutouts. Kids ran to get their faces painted with snowflakes, snowmen, candy canes, Christmas trees, and even super hero and cat masks! Spiderman showed up to make some amazing balloon creations while Elsa (from Disney’s “Frozen”) came to walk around and greet her admirers and even paint princess makeup on some lucky little girls. At the arts and crafts table the kids and their families could decorate ornaments for their Christmas tree, make holiday cards, put googly eyes and a fuzzy red nose on little Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeers, or just draw and color whatever they wanted. There were even Spanish dancers, a mariachi band, and holiday singers to entertain the families as they walked around and enjoyed their day, which also included unlimited rides on the carousel!
My favorite part of the day was all the children who hopped up onto the entertainment stage with glee and charm and sang every Christmas song they knew with huge smiles on their faces. While it may have been their first time singing in front of a large audience, you can bet some of these very talented kids will be future American Idol contestants!
Patti Rayner organized all of this wonderful day with the help of Neal Cohen, Kathy Grant, Karen Cicero, Michael Hubbard, Steve Shepherd, Anthony Cube, Jodi Improta, Sonia Trejo, Andreea Constantinescu and over 175 volunteers. What a blessed day for all involved!
God Bless and Merry Christmas!
If you would like to donate to the HeartFelt Foundation or learn more about what we do, go to www.heartfelt.org