CASAs work hard all year long to make sure foster youth can participate in the rites and traditions of childhood, while also helping to facilitate relationships with siblings and relatives. CASAs facilitate participation in extracurricular activities, summer camps, birthday celebrations, and milestones such as graduation ceremonies and proms. They work with families, foster families and social workers to make sure youth see their siblings regularly.
Holidays can be a particularly difficult time for children and youth who’ve been removed from their homes and communities. Youth may be missing their own families traditions, or lack the traditions that they see all around them. Many of our clients have no one buying them presents or preparing special holiday meals. A whole community of volunteers and supporters come together each year to create a holiday tradition that brings all of SFCASA’s clients and volunteers together, along with many siblings and parents. For some of our youth, this holiday party has become their own holiday tradition. One recently emancipated youth even made a special request to attend, as it had become a valued tradition for her and her CASA volunteer.
For a second year, DLA Piper hosted our youth holiday party at their 24th floor offices with spectacular views. Led by Sandy Holstrom, who also facilitated a wildly successful gift drive, DLA Piper volunteers transformed the office into a holiday wonderland. Once again volunteer extraordinaire Debbie Degutis planned a party which provided a plethora of fun and memorable activities for our young guests. From a teen room of video and board games to backpack or cookie decorating, every child was engaged in numerous activities throughout the day.
Caricature artist Zach Trenholm provided youth and adults a beautiful memento, balloon artist Twistyman impressed guests with all sorts of creations, Bianca and Dana returned for a fifth year with a slew of DIY crafting fun, an amazing team of stylists from Cinta Aveda Institute made inner beauty shine outward, and the kids got to select their own props and costumes for the photo booth provided by TwoDudes, Cari and Justin. Cookie decorating was a huge hit, led this year by Anne Stone and Savannah Sellman, with cookies generously made by Erin Rivera. Face painting artists Erin Kim and Maria Gonzalez transformed kids into everything from scary monsters to glittering princesses, and of course the ever-popular bingo room was back, with DLA Piper calling the games. We also had a large group of generous community members lending a hand and a smile throughout the day.
Cake4Kids provided beautiful desserts to complete what was a terrific Italian meal from Olive Garden. Most guests even went home with a to-go box for another delicious meal that evening. In addition to a festive buffet, every child left the party with an individually selected holiday gift. Immense thanks go to the numerous volunteers and organizations holding gift drive ensuring every gift wish was fulfilled, including DLA Piper, Susan Crown, Mulberry’s Market, Maverick Capital, Lisa Spinali, Matt Rechtin, Progress Investment Management, Withers LLP, St. Finn Barr School, Berkeley Playhouse, Millennium Farm, and Debbie Degutis. Our community was so generous that numerous requests for extracurricular activities and birthday gifts will also be covered throughout the year.
Thank you to all who help make the holidays more joyous for San Francisco’s youth in foster care. It takes hundreds of people to make the party and gifts a reality each year and your contributions make a real difference. Take a look through our photo gallery to get a sense of this special day.
Photos: ACT OUT Photography by Jim Norrena, and photo booth by TwoDudes Photo