A Very Merry Christmas

Written by Priscilla Gonzalez

Christmas in 2019 was magical.

Thanks to the Rotary Club of Westlake Village, “Santa Claus” visited Shadow Hills that year during the annual Christmas Party. He started off the celebration by doing some caroling with the kids. The whole group went around the entire site, singing wonderful and jolly Christmas carols for all to hear. The kids loved it and, soon enough, their parents were joining them as well.

By the time the merry carolers made it back to the community room, the rest of the party was waiting for them. Breakfast was provided, and Santa got ready to meet with each and every child. Each boy and girl waited in line to meet him. Once they reached him, they would then tell Santa Claus what they wanted for Christmas.

Somehow, Santa always had the right gift. But, of course, the real magic was in a strategically placed volunteer, ready to sneak Santa the right gift for the right child. To the child, though, it was like the perfect present magically appeared in Santa’s hand every time! They were thrilled.

As a staff member, I was able to join in on the festivities that year. I think what I liked most about it was the kids’ anticipation when they were walking up. I am going get a gift today, they were thinking. I am going to meet Santa! Not only did they get the gift they wanted, they also had the opportunity to take a picture with Santa, which I thought that was really nice.

Santa’s wife was also there, and she was really, really happy to be present for this. She actually gave out $50 grocery gift cards! We had more than enough to give one to every single family.

One of the residents spoke to me at the end. She said, “You know, you are doing a wonderful job. Thank you for even just speaking to me.” She appreciated the breakfast and the festivities. Being able to participate in this shared community event really helped her. Hearing her feedback meant a lot.

Experiencing this event was really important to me too. My parents always tried their best to make Christmas time the best it can be, even though my family struggled most during this time. I came from a family of ten siblings. My mother had seven kids with her at all time. You could imagine our family dinners! Somehow, we always had enough food for everyone. In my family, food was the most important thing that brought people together. But so were the festivities, whether it was bringing the decorations up together, or the activities we did, or even just seeing the presents under the Christmas tree.

I noticed it was the same here at Many Mansions. But at the same time, each year, it becomes more and more difficult. Putting food on the table can be hard. The kids get older, and there are more financial needs for them.

That’s the importance of programs like these, though. Bringing residents in to participate. Connecting families to their neighbors. Having food available for everyone. Giving gifts to make kids happy. Even receiving the gift card from Mrs. Claus had a huge impact! Whatever they liked most about this one event, these families left with fewer things to worry about.

Events like the Christmas Party at Shadow Hills help make a difficult time of the year a little merrier for us all.