It’s the holiday season and for many of us, it means eating good food with family, getting and receiving gifts and enjoying the winter break. However, many children don’t get to have this same luxury. But, lucky for them, Lesniak Institute's Operation Santa has the mission of bringing the holiday spirit to every little boy and girl.
Operation Santa is Lesniak Institute’s initiative for bringing holiday cheer to underprivileged children in Union County. Like Santa in his sled, the whole Lesniak Institute team dress up in holiday attire and travel across the county, bringing every child a special Christmas care package. With this month marking the 20th anniversary of Operation Santa, the team strives to continue its mission of bringing joy to children.
“For most of the children we serve, this will be the only present they receive this holiday season,” says Director of the Lesniak Institute for American Leadership, Sarah Mack, “Operation Santa isn't just giving them gifts, but it's also providing them a hot meal, getting them a visit from Santa and just bringing them in the holiday spirit”
Because of COVID-19, instead of having an in-person party, Operation Santa will personally deliver care packages to every family going through hardships. While many would let the pandemic set them back, the Lesniak Institute refuses to cancel and are determined to brighten people's day this holiday season.
“Canceling Operation Santa was never an option, regardless of a global pandemic,” Mack says. “We're going to make it work.”
The Lesniak team stays true to their mission and, for this year, are bringing happiness to over 100 kids. With such a tremendous task at hand, the institute is collaborating with many eager Kean students. As volunteers, students are helping by wrapping gifts and delivering packages to families. With Operation Santa happening so soon, the Lesniak team are looking for volunteers for the following event:
Tuesday, Dec. 14, 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Wednesday, Dec. 15, 1 p.m. - 3 p.m.
Outside of volunteering, there are other ways of giving back to the community. As mentioned on their website, people were able to sponsor a child by buying a gift from their Amazon Wishlist. Another option is through monetary donation, where no amount is too small.
“Monetary donations right now are the preferred way to donate,” Mack explains. "We will be using them to purchase gifts for the remaining children who have not yet been sponsored."
With so many people, specifically children, who don’t get to experience holiday cheer, Operation Santa is an amazing program that gives them what they want. The institute recognizes that many are not as fortunate during these times and aims to change that.
“The primary demographic of the children are those in the foster care system,” says Mack. “So, for them, Operation Santa may be the only time that they're receiving gifts.”
If students are interested in donating or learning more, please visit the Lesniak Institute website. Anyone who wants to volunteer, can contact the Lesniak Institute by emailing them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
During this time of year, every family deserves to have holiday cheer and good memories. While the holiday season is about having fun with those we hold dear, it is still important to give back to others and the Lesniak Institute never forgets this message.
“This is my favorite time of the year,” Mack says. “It's so meaningful to be able to provide happiness to these kids.”