The holiday season is a magical time of year, and the team over at Treehouse is fortunate to have one of the greatest gifts of all — the opportunity to give foster kids across Washington State the happy holiday memories that we all remember and cherish from our youth. This holiday season, Treehouse kids will have the opportunity to experience the awe of watching Macy’s star light up in Westlake Park from atop their very own carousel horse, to pick out a cozy set of winter pajamas and other winter clothes in the Wearhouse — Treehouse’s onsite retail store where foster youth and caregivers can shop for free — and the excitement of unwrapping a new gift selected just for them.
During the holidays, youth in foster care need our community’s support the most. The holidays can be a painful time, as they are reminded of the family they have temporarily — or in some cases, permanently — lost. At school, foster kids can feel isolated and forgotten as their friends return from winter break with stories of vacations, new gifts and family celebrations. During this time, caregivers are working hard to make sure foster youth aren’t left out, and that they too have happy holiday stories to share. This can be challenging for them as they often do not have the resources needed to provide their kids with winter essentials, holiday gifts and experiences that every child deserves.
Thanks to the generous support of the local community, every December Treehouse provides more than 800 foster kids across King County with the essential clothing and other items they need to fit in at school and feel great about themselves. In December 2012, Treehouse distributed over 16,000 items to holiday shoppers, including 755 pairs of pajamas, 572 coats and 5,644 toys!
The Wearhouse: Through the Simpsons’ eyes
Paulette and Calvin Simpson decided to become foster parents after realizing that there were children in the community who could benefit from the extra love they had to give. Soon after, two young boys, ages 3 and 4, showed up on the Simpsons’ doorstep needing a little more than just a loving home. “They had been homeless. They arrived without any belongings, wearing dirty clothes that were too big for their small bodies,” Paulette shared.
Thankfully, Paulette knew about the Treehouse Wearhouse and was able to get the boys essentials that they needed. As the boys settled into home life with the Simpsons, Paulette looked forward to their first holiday season together. As the family began preparing for their annual holiday celebrations, she learned that her boys had never received a holiday gift. Paulette and Calvin were determined to give their boys the fun childhood experience they deserved.
Paulette and Calvin again turned to the Wearhouse for support, and were overwhelmed by the selection of gifts to choose from. “The staff was so personable and friendly. They made shopping fun and helped us find just what we needed,” Paulette shared. “I loved that we could find lots of learning toys and books to help teach our growing boys.”
Although shopping was fun, the real magic came from watching the eyes of her boys light up when they experienced a magical Christmas morning for the first time. In addition to many books and warm jackets, the boys were shocked to find two shiny bikes near the tree. “The boys loved the bikes so much we couldn’t get them off of them for breakfast,” Paulette laughed.
The Shackelfords embrace the reason for the season, helping caregivers like the Simpsons
With both of their birthdays in December, Robert and Erin Shackelford often felt overwhelmed and exhausted when the holiday season was over. The end of the year usually brought an abundance of well-intentioned but unneeded gifts to the Shackelford home, which Erin and Robert often simply tucked away in the basement.
While talking with a co-worker one day, Erin heard about Treehouse for the first time. She decided to try volunteering for a shift in the Wearhouse. After a day spent sorting clothing and toys, she left with a deeper understanding of the impact a holiday gift could have on the life of a child in foster care. Erin spoke with Robert about the needs and opportunities she saw at Treehouse. Together, they could do more, and they would do more. They would continue to host an annual holiday and birthday bash, but, instead of accepting gifts for themselves, they would ask their guests to bring donations for Treehouse kids.
For the past ten holiday seasons, the Shackelfords and their friends have looked forward to the annual party they host in honor of Treehouse. For Robert and Erin, their annual birthday bash is a gift they can share. They see their party as an opportunity for their guests to slow down and remember what the holiday season is really about. The opportunity to host a holiday party in honor of Treehouse is much more than a way to keep their basement a little less cluttered — it’s a way to help create memories for kids in foster care that they will treasure for many seasons to come.
Giving the gift of time
Want to get involved and help support foster families this holiday season? Here are a few ways that you can help foster the spirit of giving this year:
- Host a holiday Donation Drive — This holiday season, you can collect warm clothes, toys and donations to make sure kids in foster care don’t have to go without.
- Host a holiday event — Follow in the Shackelfords’ footsteps and and host a holiday event to support Treehouse.
- Take a turn on the Holiday Carousel — Join us for a volunteer shift at the Pandora Jewelry Holiday Carousel at Westlake Park in downtown Seattle. Greet riders, collect donations and share the Treehouse mission with the community.
- Volunteer as a Wearhouse Holiday Helper — Help sort donations and stock our free store for foster youth with toys and clothes.
For more information on how you can get involved, visit treehouseforkids.org.