Secret Santa is a gift-giving initiative that provides holiday cheer to older youth in foster care who are often overlooked this time of year. With the support of actress Lorraine Bracco and hundreds of other donors, every year we distribute approximately $30,000 in gift cards and hundreds of toys to over 800 foster youth from New York and Los Angeles.
Letter from Tatiana, former foster youth and previous Felix Intern:When I was fifteen years old, I was placed in foster care. The years before I aged out of foster care were tumultuous. Unlike many youths in foster care, my siblings and I were not separated from one another...and we did not move around often. Even so, we experienced a lot of difficulties and the worst time of year for my siblings and I was usually during the holidays. It was the time of year that served as the biggest reminder that we no longer really had parents, at least not in the traditional sense. We suffered something that most children in foster care experience: being forgotten. It was extremely disheartening to watch my foster parent dote on her own children and forget we existed. And while she sometimes got our younger brother a few gifts, my sister and I were often left unacknowledged. This was the story of the holidays for us over and over again until one year, we received gift cards from our foster care agency. The first time we received them, we were really surprised and grateful because those gift cards gave us the chance to treat ourselves to something that we wanted. Receiving a gift card soothed the sting that comes with not being able to spend the holiday with family and opening gifts on Christmas morning like other kids. As the years went on, we actually looked forward to the holiday season rather than dreading it. Even though we still didn’t get presents from our foster family, we always got something from our agency. It was a symbol that someone out there remembered us, that someone cared.
Letter from Shirley, Social Worker at NY-based foster care agency: The Felix Organization's Secret Santa campaign has been a major source of joy for the foster youth in our programs. The holidays are especially difficult for our youth, and even more so for those who may not have any positive adult resources outside of the foster care system. We rely greatly on Felix’s Secret Santa for our adolescent unit, and this year even more so, as we have added another program in the Bronx that serves over 200 foster families. The fact is that without Felix some of our youth will not receive any gifts other than the in-kind donations our agency is able to secure. We usually get the youth pajamas, hats, slippers, gloves and scarves—practical gifts that they will need while in residence with us. I am writing as a Social Worker who sees in their eyes what a difference one gift-card can make. It isn't about the dollar amount...it lets them know someone thought about them. Getting a gift card really puts a smile on their faces and allows them to get something they truly wanted. And in some cases they use the cards to take their sibling (who they may rarely see) to a movie or buy them a gift as well.