This year, our theme for the holiday season has been “Make a wish come true.” We chose these words because not only do we believe in Christmas magic but also the power of giving. Just receiving a toy can be transformative for a child who’s never had one before. Our friends at the Autobahn Dealership also understand how a simple gift can mean so much. Each year, they host a Christmas party for our adopted kids. One of our adoptive parents reached out to share just how much these parties mean to our families.

Dear Autobahn Elves,

I wanted to thank you for the wonderful party you put on for our children. While your actions reflect your spirit of generosity, I doubt you realize just how significant your actions are for children in care.

I have often been asked how I am able to do foster care—after all, it means saying goodbye over and over again to children you have grown to love. The answer is hope. These children have grown up with chaos, loss, trauma…you name a dark side of life, and they have lived it. How can they be expected to know what to reach for in life when they have had little exposure to it? My “day job” is teaching emotionally disturbed children for FWISD. I watch traumatized children wrestle with fear, distrust, rage…the most tragic are those who have no notion of hope. What I hope and pray is that the children whose lives we touch walk away knowing, if only a little, that life can offer them love and happiness. That they will grow up knowing that there CAN be something wonderful to reach for, to fight for.

Events such as your Christmas party provide these children with some joy. But more than that, they give them time and a place to truly feel the joy, without the overshadowing of fear. These events let the older children know that there ARE good people out there, that there ARE safe places, that someone SEES them and cares that they have some pleasure in life.

While the majority of good comes from the simple act of providing the above, I also want you to get a sense of what the toys mean for some of the kids. I recall vividly the first time I understood. Two small boys had been placed in my care (ages 2 and 4) early on in my fostering. I had taken them with me to Walmart to pick up some clothing and underwear (they had arrived with nothing but the clothing they were wearing, which had been provided by CPS after their removal) and took them to the toy section to invite them to choose a toy. The older brother (who had yet to say a word) looked around with wide eyes and slowly reached out to lightly touch a popcorn-pusher toy. I picked it up and placed it in his hand, carelessly asking, “Is this the one you want?” Eyes still wide, he hesitantly grasped it and whispered, “Mine?” He went on to keep that toy with him for weeks—even at night. It showed me that event the simplest gift means the world to those who have never owned a toy before.

I wanted to give a special thank you for my 17-year-old daughter…I only gave the most basic of information—pretty pumps in a size 12—and her elf turned the gift into something very special. A gorgeous box wrapped in glittery ribbon filled with shoes, a top and jewelry that had my daughter’s eyes shining. A perfect gift for a teenager who spent more than half her life bounced from home to home. You have my gratitude…particularly when I have a very difficult time convincing her that the shoes she generally picks out are really more appropriate for streetwalkers (rolls eyes). The shoes you chose were a perfect blend of sweet and sassy!!

Merry Christmas, and blessings to you and yours!