When we find ourselves sitting around a table filled with delicious food, and our favorite people, it is easy to think of the holidays as magical. For most of us, many of our favorite childhood and adult memories took place during the holiday season. Twinkling lights, hot cocoa, decorating the tree while your favorite holiday movie played in the background. All memories and moments we will hold on to, and allow to warm our hearts, forever.
For HALO kids, the holiday season hasn't always been one of joy and special memories. Many of them remember them as times when their huger was amplified because school was out of session. Or times when all the family connection time increased their abuse and home tension.
This year, when decorating the HALO Girls Home, three different HALO youth mentioned they'd never had holiday decorations before. Another mentioned she hadn't been allowed to help for fear of messing it up. What a true honor it was to give them space to experience childhood joy. To watch their eyes twinkle with holiday lights, and the heaviness of their lives lift a little. We truly hope when they think of the holidays now, they will remember this one. Where they were given the chance to decorate cookies however they wanted. When they were given so many gifts, they stopped counting. When they felt love and warmth, and family.
One of our favorite yearly traditions with HALO kids is our Country Club Holiday Dinner. This event is something our kids look forward to for years. All current and past HALO youth are invited to a special, dressy dinner at the Jefferson City Country Club.
Everyone gets the chance to pick out a special outfit that makes them look and feel their best. They get to keep the outfit to use for job interviews, prom, or whatever else they might need it for. The day of the dinner, hair and makeup services are offered to our girls, courtesy of some incredible stylists who volunteer their time.
This year we were so thankful for our friends at Moroccanoil who sent all the product and tools we could possibly need to help make our girls feel beautiful.
There was one young lady at the dinner who mentioned to a HALO volunteer that she thought she might cry. When asked if she was okay, she said "yes, I just don't think I have ever felt this beautiful before."
Every year upon arriving at the Country Club, we make sure that all our kids get professional photos taken to remember the night by. Many of them can also be used for headshots and lead to further opportunities. Even more importantly, most of our kids have never had their photos taken professionally. It is always a special day when we can show them the photos that were captured and they are able to get a small glimpse of the beauty we see in them every day.
Before dinner, we go around the tables and give everyone a chance to talk about something they are thankful for, and something they are looking forward to in the year to come. Many of our kids site HALO as what they are most thankful for, or the people in the room. Some mention the chance to finish their education, or the chance to be working a job they love. For most of us, our favorite moments are when our kids talk about what they are looking forward to. Because, until our kids came to HALO, their futures seemed much dimmer. To hear them speak about looking forward to graduating, or starting college, or playing college basketball is a very special thing. Because HALO gives them space dream bigger.
The Country Club Dinner is the official kickoff of holiday festivities within our Girls Home, and the Jefferson City Learning Center and Boys Program. Every year we try to make memories and holiday moments happen all throughout the season.
This year, our boys celebrated the holiday with time together. We are helping our boys learn cooking basics, and together they created multiple delicious meals this holiday season.
Our boys were able to enjoy a special evening of bowling and arcade time thanks to our friends at Strikers. Then, they opened gifts sent to them from our incredibly generous HALO family.
At our Girls Home in Jefferson City, we don't take it lightly that we are the only family our HALO kids get to experience holiday moments with. That challenges us to make the most of the moments we have, and make the little things special all month long.
We have done plenty of holiday baking this year, cupcakes, rice crispy treats, puppy chow, chocolate covered peanut butter balls, and so much more. We love giving our kids the chance to make treats that they can use as gifts for coworkers or friends.
We have had plenty of holiday themed paint nights, old fashioned trucks with Christmas trees in the back, and cute gnomes to name a few. We also helped our mamas make keepsake ornaments celebrating the first Christmas for three babies living in the HALO home right now.
This year, our HALO Overnight Staff helped put together an extra special sleepover upstairs. Each girl in the home has their own room, and often ask for a group sleepover. It was so much fun watching them laugh together as a family. They played fun games throughout the night, and fell asleep to holiday movies next to the Christmas tree.
It was a night none of them will forget any time soon. We are so grateful for people who invest in meaningful moments for our kids, and go the extra mile to make them happen.
This year, we have more youth living in our Jefferson City Girls Home than ever before. It took a lot of sensational HALO supporters to make holiday gifts possible for our kids. We couldn't be more thankful for our HALO family coming together to make sure the holidays are magical.
On our "HALO Holiday Morning", our youth wake up to a delicious meal prepared for them by HALO Staff. We take time to open gifts, and celebrate together. This year was, perhaps, the most magical yet. There were literally squeals of delight and some very happy tears shed as long-time wishes were granted. One of our HALO youth is a budding artist. She makes incredible pieces of art and received a special digital art tablet that will allow her to better practice her craft. She couldn't stop crying because she'd been wishing for it for so long. Another young lady screamed when she opened a bag with the exact bedding she had been hoping for. Not long after the festivities ended, she asked each HALO staff member to stop by her room to see how cozy her bedding made it feel. True magic happened here this holiday season.
None of this holiday magic would have been possible without some truly sensation people coming together to make dreams come true. Thank you to Moroccanoil for donating products to help make our kids look and feel their best. Thank you to Kirk & Libby Farmer, Curtis & Sarah Neuenswander, The Watson Family, Amy Pulliam, The Keller Family, Solid Rock Church, Veterans United & Missouri Department of Transportation, and everyone else who donated for being Santa in tangible form and granting holiday wishes. Thank you to our incredible Tribe Donors for making sure we are able to say yes to meaningful moments. We are so grateful for you all.
There is still time to help us say "yes" to HALO kids this season with your giving. We couldn't make dreams come true without you. To learn more, please click HERE.