As a way to reach out to underprivileged families, Junior Chamber International’s Santa Clarita Chapter held its Santa’s Helpers event at Ice Station Valencia on Saturday.
The event brings about 100 families together and hands out toys and gift cards to around 240 children and teenagers. Gifts were donated at various sites across Santa Clarita, including every local Starbucks, Hyatt Regency Valencia, the Santa Clarita Valley Family YMCA and other locations. Other toys were donated at 40 Under Forty and the Thanksgiving Turkey Trot.
“That’s one of the neat things for our event too,” said Taylor Kellstrom, incoming president of JCI SCV. “It’s not as hard to get the toys, it’s harder for the gifts for teenagers, and a lot of people overlook the teenagers at this time of the year, so we’re really fortunate that we’re able to help them as well along with the younger kids, while doing this whole party and all that.”
Kellstrom, along with event co-chair Daniela Echaiz, said they collected gift cards for Target, Walmart, GameStop and movie tickets that were designated specifically for teenagers. Gifts were wrapped and sorted by volunteers and other children for particular children who, without giving their names, asked for specific or similar gifts to receive. After sitting down with Santa Claus and some of his elves, the children then receive their presents after hitting the ice, having some pizza or taking part in making some arts and crafts.
“Seeing young children get so involved in it and seeing how much that they put thought into which presents they were selecting so that way we could wrap them the next day, that was even more touching,” Echaiz said.
Walking around were Tom Iland and Krystian Rutledge. The incoming and outgoing treasurers of JCI SCV, they provided different activities for families to partake in. Iland, dressed in Victorian clothing, sang carols as Rutledge, the manager of Bricks 4 Kidz, passed out small kits with Lego pieces and instructions to build things. As a way to help children learn about STEM, Brick 4 Kidz’s goal was to provide children with opportunities that are unavailable to them, Rutledge said.
“We’re all in a place in life where we’re pretty blessed, and to be able to be in this position to do this is just remarkable,” said Kellstrom. “We’re really fortunate and fortunate for so many people’s help, because it takes a village.”
Leftover toys will be donated to other local causes, such as the children’s ward at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital, according to previous Signal reporting.