As we finish up the 2019 OK Foster Wishes program, I want to offer my sincere thanks to the many supporters who made this year a success. If you are not aware, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services program called Holiday Hope collects wish lists submitted by foster youth over a three-month period. Partner organizations like the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy help distribute these lists to generous donors who will fill one or more based upon the request of the youth. With more than 8,000 foster youth currently in care, OICA is pleased to be the largest partner in this endeavor by helping distribute about half of the total lists statewide and directly coordinating distribution in Oklahoma County.
Larger partners, like NorthChurch and the Oklahoma City Fire Department, take up to 500 wish-lists each to fill, and many hundreds of other individuals and organizations also shop to support these youth. Without those who are willing to take on a list and purchase the item that the child has requested, there is no way this program could operate in this public/private partnership to support these children and foster families in December.
We also have tremendous benefactors who provide facilities for us to use, both as a warehouse and also as a drop-off location. Over the past three years, Feed the Children, Hobby Lobby and Petra Industries have provided our very own “North Pole” as a base of operations in which to sort the gifts by county and individual DHS office. Foster families in Oklahoma County are also able to pick up the gifts for their foster kids at these locations. We also have had many supporters provide locations for people to drop off fulfilled lists or unwrapped toys. Those locations include Buy for Less, Super Saver, Uptown Market, Darby’s Big Furniture, Communications Federal Credit Union, Oklahoma’s Credit Union, First United Banks, the Ardmore and Enid Fire Departments and Dr. Stephen Buchanan, DDS.
In addition to the list fulfillment, OICA also runs a Santa Store to support the roughly 12 children per day who came into foster care following the deadline for submitting lists. This is important to do so no child goes without a present over the holiday season.
I also want to thank Coach Barry Switzer of OU fame, and former OSU football player and radio host Sam Mayes for joining us for a shopping spree to help finish off any unfulfilled items and stock the Santa Store with needed items. Additionally, I want to thank all of those who contributed financially to help buy these items and support the program as a whole, which includes paying staff, costs to support volunteers with gas to pick up items and snacks while sorting gifts, and purchase of essential items like bags to put the gifts in. I will add on, if any funds remain from this endeavor, those will go to our graduation party that we host for all foster youth graduating or getting their General Education Diploma.
Finally, thank you to Peyton, Mandi, Miranda, Karen, the rest of our staff, the DHS workers and the many volunteers who made this all happen! These elves are the reason this all could be reality!
As I said above, without the many supporters of OK Foster Wishes, there is no way this endeavor could be successful! Thank you to all who are a part of this for making this season bright for these Oklahoma children, and for those who have become foster parents as a result of this effort!