What do you get when you mix a DJ, tons of garland, hundreds of toys and happy families – Hands On Hartford’s annual Holiday Party and Toy Shoppe. Every December, for the past two decades, Hands On Hartford has hosted a festive holiday party with refreshments and entertainment for many of the families whom we serve as well as an opportunity for the parents to “shop” (free of course) for gifts for their children.
The December 15th festivity provided loads of holiday cheer to 105 families – in total we had 312 attendees at the event. The children who attended were treated to face painting, arts & crafts, and danced to the sounds of a DJ who totally engaged them with houla hoops and colored lights. As the children were entertained in the party room, their parents, quietly shopped for toys and other gift items in the “Toy Shoppe Room.”
Each parent was given $40 Santa Bucks to shop per child and the parents selected items utilizing a choice model. Among this year’s popular selections were Lalaloopsy, all things Captain America, Pillow Pets and Hello Kitty products (cupcake maker, gumball machine, toaster, etc.). After leaving the “Toy Shoppe Room” parents had the option of moving on to the giftwrapping station where they could have their selections wrapped. While they waited for their gifts to be wrapped, they perused the books on the book table – where every family was alloted a book of their choice.
Our annual Holiday Party/Toy Shoppe is made possible via our partnership with Avon Old Farms (AOF) School. For twenty-nine years, AOF has raised a significant amount of money during the holiday season and procured toys for those in need. However, Hands On Hartford has been the beneficiary of their generosity for twenty years. Every year, for a two week period, AOF does significant fundraising for this event with various activities including:
• Hosting a live concert and dance, with a $5.00 admission charge, on Saturday, December 3rd.
• Selling t-shirts and rally towels to be sported during athletic contests
• Hosting its annual Italian Dinner on Friday, December 9th , with a small donation requested for admission
• Fasting (students) all day in anticipation of the Boar’s Head Festival on Tuesday, December 13; the money saved from not providing lunch was donated to the fundraising efforts.
This year they raised approximately $16,000 – which not only purchased the toys and books that we distributed but also sponsored the actual party. Three days before the actual event staff from Hands On Hartford, met with a team of 13 students, as well as staff (including the headmaster) who shopped for the toys for our families based on a shopping list that we provided them. The boys shopped with their hearts and souls, schlepped everything back to their school for a morning assembly the following day and then delivered the toys to South Church for the event on the 15th before breaking for winter recess.
This event was volunteer intensive and would not have been possible without the help of dozens of volunteers who helped to sort and transport toys, gift wrap, help parents with their toy selection, face paint, serve food, etc. Moreover, the donations of candy, baked goods, gift wrapping paper, etc. were truly appreciated. This event truly took a village and was a huge success as a consequence of everyone pitching in. Thank you AOF for helping us to spread joy and happiness to 105 families in Hartford this holiday season!