I know many of us have looked forward to this holiday season as a well-earned break from a year filled with challenges. For many foster children, though, the holidays can be a time of hurt, with many feeling the struggle of separation during a time that is supposed to make us feel togetherness. For over 30 years, I’ve been happy to see the Christmas Wish Project, a local organization very special to me, make the season bright for thousands of North Texas foster children.
In 1989, a friend with eight foster children in her care was struggling to afford them Christmas presents—but my friend Becky Haskin and I were determined to help her give each of those children the Christmas they deserve. From this small start came the idea to raise funds and collect toys to make wishes come true for many more foster children who have never experienced a bountiful Christmas before. Becky and I saw the idea grow into the nonprofit “Christmas Wish Project,” which Becky still runs to this day. What started out as helping one foster family soon grew to helping several hundred children. Last year, over 1,000 North Texas foster children who asked Santa Claus for a specific gift had their wishes granted through the Christmas Wish Project.
The Christmas Wish Project is entirely volunteer-based, operating without the need to pay for insurance, supplies, or even a post office box, so that 100 percent of donations go towards its mission. Our entire community comes together in support: money and toys are donated by friends and neighbors, and local businesses large and small. Some volunteers even build bikes to help meet demand for what is always one of the children’s most popular requests every year. Becky also works with foster parents and agencies including the Tarrant County Foster Parents Associations, Our Community Our Kids, and Chosen Ones to learn the specific Christmas wishes of each child. Volunteers then purchase and wrap that present, so each child sees his or her own unique wish granted on Christmas morning. Every year, all the toys, bikes, and other presents come together in a donated warehouse space. Throughout the years, my son J.D. has helped Becky find warehouses, and longtime volunteers include Charlie Cripliver, my and Becky’s good friend, and my office District Director!
The need for the Christmas Wish Project has never been greater than this year: Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the number of Tarrant County foster children has increased by about 20%, given economic hardship and delays in reunification and adoption procedures. Still, our whole community lent a mighty hand, with volunteers like Charlie and local Boy Scout troops building bikes, and wrapping and distributing all kinds of toys for around 1,200 foster children—one of the Project’s highest numbers yet—living in Tarrant, Parker, Johnson, Erath, Palo Pinto, Hood, and Somervell Counties.
The Christmas Wish Project shows us that imagination and the holiday spirit are bigger in Texas, too. Like the mission of the Christmas Wish Project, this year, let’s all find comfort and joy despite extraordinary circumstances. However you’re safely celebrating, I hope that you and your loved ones have a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!