FCHP’s annual party spreads holiday cheer to foster children
Published: Tuesday, December 4, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, December 4, 2012 08:12
Over 200 foster children and their families visited the Hill this Sunday for the 25th annual Foster Children’s Holiday Party (FCHP) in Alumnae Hall.
The party, supported by the Tufts University Alumni Association, featured food, arts and crafts, a “Book Nook,” photos with Jumbo, a magician and entertainment from student performance groups such as Traveling Treasure Trunk, BlackOut, Tufts Bhangra team, sQ! and the Jumbo Jugglers. Each foster child also received a gift from Santa, in addition to a family board game, pajamas and books.
“The inspiration was to help serve an underserved population of foster children and provide some holiday cheer and a nice outlet at the holiday time for kids who typically do not have that,” FCHP Committee Co-Chair Dan Kaplan (LA ’96) said.
Working in conjunction with the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF), FCHP staff cooperates with students, faculty, staff and alumni to plan this annual community event.
“What’s really nice about this event is how willing people and organizations are to chip in,” Samantha Snitow (LA ’02), assistant director of student and young alumni programs and 2012 FCHP staff liaison, said.
The FCHP committee began as an offshoot group of Tufts Alumni Boston, when Tufts alumna Lynn Brody (LA ’87) began working with the Malden office of the DCF as a way to give back to the local community, according to DCF Coordinator Christine Conlon (LA ’93), who began participating in FCHP when she was still an undergraduate.
According to Snitow, local business sponsors such as Bertucci’s, Pepsi and J.P. Licks donated all of the food for this year’s FCHP, while Facilities Services and Tufts’ UGL Unicco janitorial staff donated their services. Books were donated by Scholastic, whose president is Tufts Trustee Hugh Roome (A ’74, G ’74, F ’80).
Alumni networked with friends and coworkers to contribute, whether through monetary gifts, baked goods or wrapping paper drives.
“A lot of [volunteers], they don’t even blink an eye,” Snitow said. “They’re just happy to help.”
Tufts students also had the opportunity to volunteer. FCHP last Wednesday hosted its annual Wrap Night, at which students and alumni gathered to prepare and wrap the gifts for the event.
According to Snitow, Assistant Director of Athletics John Casey recruited over 40 baseball players this year to help wrap and haul hundreds of bags of gifts, books and crafts.
“What we really like about this event is it’s a really good opportunity for students to meet alumni and staff in a very casual environment,” she said Joseph’s Transportation donates a small bus every year to pick up homeless single mothers and their children who otherwise would not be able to attend FCHP, according to Snitow.
“It’s the unexpected efforts and surprises from different people and organizations that make such a difference to foster children’s families and parents,” she said.
“It’s just amazing how Tufts has done this [party] for 25 years for the foster children,” Marilyn Smith, DCF liaison to the Malden office, added.
To celebrate the milestone, the committee organized its first back-to-school picnic for foster children in August, giving away backpacks full of school supplies donated by alumni, Snitow said.
“This is my favorite event of the year,” Conlon said. “I’ve gotten my own kids involved in it. This party to me is just a huge way that we say thank you and give [these children and their foster parents] one afternoon where they can relax, enjoy music and enjoy these children in the holiday spirit.”
Snitow explained that any extra gifts are donated to the Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center, while leftover food is given to the Medford Family Life Education Center and books are saved for next year.