Irene’s first fostering experience was that of fostering her own grandchildren.
This experience was so life-changing that she decided to keep her doors open for those in need after her grandchildren left.
Irene now plays host to five foster children. This leaves her with having to make five Christmases possible.
Through the partnership of Supervisor Kathryn Barger, Six Flags Magic Mountain, ABC7’s Spark of Love and the Los Angeles County Fire Department, Irene and 500 other selected foster family members had their Christmases made just a little easier to manage on Saturday at the annual “Celebrate the Holidays at Six Flags Magic Mountain.”
“It’s time-consuming to take them to something before the holidays and they’re very excited to come today,” said Irene, whose last name was not provided, as the event organizers stipulated that no last names of foster parents or children would be given.
Six Flags gave every single attendee VIP treatment. Each foster kid was gifted goodies from Barger’s office and books from the Los Angeles County Library upon their arrival. Once they got into the event, they were served brunch and could choose from activities such as crafts, photo booths and a photo with Mr. and Mrs. Claus.
However, these were all just bonuses alongside the main attraction – a day at Six Flags and the opportunity to pick their very own Christmas present.
“It’s really meaningful for all of us adults to experience the magic of Christmas through the eyes of the children here today,” said Barger.
Hundreds of toys were placed on rows of tables waiting to be chosen. Stanchions prevented the kids from physically crowding the tables, but all eyes were on them.
“It really is one of the best events of the year because it does feel like Christmas,” said Brandon Nichols, director of Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services. “I think it’s kinda the best, we give selflessly to people at the holidays and people we care about.”
The kids’ stares turned into chatter and with that, and a $2,000 check presentation by the Los Angeles County Hispanic Managers Association toward Spark of Love, the kids were off.
One by one, the kids were accompanied by an L.A. County Fire Department member to meticulously pick out one toy to take home as their Christmas present. All of the toys were donations brought in by Spark of Love at drop-off locations throughout L.A. County.
Kids were taking home bikes, scooters, skateboards, Elsa dolls, Squishmallows and Rubic’s cubes. Teenagers were gifted with $25 Target gift cards. All left with a smile on their face.
“It’s a chance to meet directly with the kids and with the parents and to be able to give them a little gift, which is kind of like a token of the love and care we have for them,” said Nichols.
Nichols said that the toys are meant to bring the kids joy, but also serve as a reminder that they are never forgotten about.
“It brings a tear to my eye,” said Nichols. “I hope for them it shows them that there are people out there that they’ve never met that care about them, that are working, thinking about them to make their lives a little better, a little happier.”
In doing so, this day also serves to provide a little relief for the foster parents and have them instead focus on doing what they have been doing for these kids – loving them.
“It’s a wonderful feeling to have all these kids in my presence,” said Irene.
“It’s all glowing, everything I’ve ever heard is how much they appreciate coming here,” said Nichols.