Hundreds of neatly wrapped gifts were bundled up in packages and lined up against the wall closest to the Christmas tree. Each package full of different-sized gifts had a Post-It note with a number on it and in total there were almost 150 packages for 150 families.
Executive Director Yorleni Sapp wore her heart on her sleeve and became emotional throughout the night while she looked at the overflowing crowd of parents and children of all ages. The way she spoke about the families present, you could feel the love she had for each individual and how passionate she was about her work.
“I just want you guys to know that you’re loved and that you’re not alone anymore … you have amazing role models to follow. There is no excuse. It’s work. It’s hard, but it’s doable. And you’re not alone,” Sapp said emotionally.
Single Mothers Outreach held its annual “Adopt a Family” holiday celebration at the Cross Point Church on Saturday night. Families were given dozens of gifts to ensure children would smile on Christmas morning while they opened presents and created special memories.
SMO is a nonprofit organization that was founded in 1986 with the mission to empower single-parent families to overcome challenges with the appropriate resources. Their four pillars of success are: connect, assist, grow and inspire.
“Adopt a Family” is a program where families can anonymously apply and create a wish list of gifts that their children desire. Local families can then sponsor the wish list and purchase, wrap, and donate the gifts for them to receive at the celebration.
Although families were eager to receive their package of gifts, the night also served as a reminder of hope for both parents and their children and that anything was possible if they worked hard and maintained their resilience.
“My goal is just to stand up here and be an inspiration to all your kids,” said Canada Men’s National Soccer Team Midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye. He traveled from Canada to share the special moment with SMO families. “We’re always dealt a certain hand in life and we don’t choose that hand but we got to decide what we do with it. And I just want to let you guys all know that anything you want to do is possible.”
Anthony Kaye was raised by his single mother from early childhood which is why he felt compelled to join the SMO organization at their holiday celebration.
He also launched his sweepstakes on social media and people who donated funds for the cause were entered into a pool for a chance to win a variety of prizes such as tickets to see him play at the Toronto home game of the Gold Cup, signed merchandise, an all-access pass to a training session at the Toronto FC Training Ground and much more.
“As I’ve gotten older I’ve seen the pain and the tribulations you all have to go through,” Anthony Kaye said to the families. “I just want to say thank you to my mom. She put in a lot of work over the years. I was a stubborn kid, didn’t listen all the time. But I was really driven and she gave me that quality and I’ve been able to turn it into something special and now share it all with you guys.”
Deputy Rodriguez from the Norwalk Sheriff’s Station emotionally shared some of her personal story with the crowd and explained why she makes it a goal to attend the celebration every year and witness the countless smiles from the children.
At 6 years old Rodriguez was introduced to SMO while being raised by her mother and another female police officer is the one who helped them find the organization.
“To do it by yourself is hard. As a single mom or single dad,” Rodriguez said tearing up. “Your kids can grow up to be a famous soccer player or a police officer one day … I hope you guys find comfort here and know that this is your home.”
“We are celebrating you and [we want you to] see the love from different parts … from different backgrounds with different languages,” said Sapp before families disbursed to get in line to receive their sponsored gifts or grab a cupcake from the desert bar. “We love all those kids. We want to see them healthy. We want to see them growing strong, we want you to believe that there is a beautiful and bright future ahead of you.”
Families witnessed vocal and dance performances that ended with a conga line and overall felt like one big happy family celebrating and creating special memories with one another.
The annual “Adopt a Family” brought in a large crowd of attendees and families could take photos with both Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus and with Anthony Kaye and actor Cody Saintgnue known for his roll on the MTV teen drama “Teen Wolf.”