On a cold evening, some light rain could not dampen the hearts of children running around and enjoying a warm meal of tacos at the James T. Ventress Clubhouse in Newhall.
The Boys and Girls Club of Santa Clarita Valley hosted its annual holiday party for its club kids and families on Thursday. The organizers had Santa give out donated gifts from the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station, along with a taco dinner and fun activities.
“We’re excited, and we’re doing it outside for COVID-19 safety,” said Matthew Nelson, CEO of the Boys and Girls Club of SCV. “Last year, we did a drive-thru event, but we’re glad to do a little more like a normal year this time.”
Kwame Bowen, CEO of Newob Outreach, an organization that supports youth and underprivileged communities, said they were looking for an opportunity to help out. Bowen reached out to the Boys and Girls Club and collaborated for the festivities.
Bowen, a recreational league football and life coach, asked his football team to volunteer at the holiday party. Some of his boys dressed up as Santa’s elves and brought cheer to kids.
“I tell all my parents, ‘I don’t coach football, I teach life,’” Bowen said. “The reality is 99% of the kids that I come into contact with will never grow up to be professional football players, but they will grow up to be young men.”
Bowen said he encourages his football boys to volunteer or do something selfless when they can because each day their goal should be “being a better man than they were yesterday.”
Courtney Davis, of Valencia, came with her son, who is part of Bowen’s football team, to the holiday party.
“My son is here volunteering as an elf,” Davis said. “(The holiday party) is just awesome. It’s hard to find a program for them to volunteer and to understand the real meaning of Christmas. So, to have an opportunity to bring them here and give back, it’s special for me as a parent to see experience that.”
Children ran around outside the clubhouse, giggling as they chased each other. Some of the kids waited in line for the opportunity to take a photo with Santa and his two elves, while others played board games inside where it was warm.
“It rained a little, and it’s cold,” Nelson said. “We just rolled with it and made it fun for the kids. We want them to have a good experience. We want them to know that they’re cared for and thought about.”
The Boys and Girls Club hosts its annual holiday party to show the kids there’s a community of support for them, even more so this year because the pandemic has changed the lives of the kids.
Nelson added: “They’ve been through a lot in the last two years, and we are happy to provide some normalcy for them and give them something to be excited about.”