How you can help a grant a holiday wish for a Jersey foster child
One Simple Wish, a Trenton-based organization that tries to fulfill the requests for children in foster care and homeless shelters year-round, is hoping to make Christmas more special for them.
The organization raises awareness about the issues affecting children who've been abandoned, abused or neglected and are now living in either group homes or foster care situations around the U.S., while also trying to get people involved in granting the wishes of the children, according to founder and executive director Danielle Gletow.
"We started by just serving children in New Jersey, but in the last eight years we have grown to now partnering with agencies in 49 states. About 800 agencies use our service," Gletow said.
Those who feel moved by the children's stories, but don't have the capacity or the desire to foster or adopt themselves, can go to onesimplewish.org and browse the hundreds of wishes posted on behalf of the children.
"They can grant one right then and there, and they start as low as $10," Gletow said.
Gletow and her husband fostered children before adopting their now 9-year-old daughter in 2009. Seeing what children in foster care were growing through prompted them to start One Simple Wish eight years ago in their home.
This Thursday night in West Trenton, the organization hosts its annual holiday party for some 400 children statewide living in foster care or kinship care with relatives.
"It's really an amazing event. We have pictures with Santa that are printed on the spot, so that the kids can take them with them, we have crafts, face painting, games," Gletow said.. There's also a DJ and dancing. "Hasbro sponsors our Toy Land, and our Toy Wonderland is just filled with hundreds and hundreds of toys so the children get to go in and pick out toys of their own for Christmas or the holidays."
New Jersey law practice Stark & Stark also is sponsoring the Christmas party, organized by between 30 and 50 volunteers, Gletow said.
"For some of our kids, siblings in foster care who are separated, it's one of the few times a year that they get to spend time with their siblings," Gletow said.
Gletow pointed out the holidays can be an extremely difficult time for these kids, with many of them waking up on Christmas in group homes or in unfamiliar places, separated from brothers and sisters.
"For a lot of these kids, they'll wake up on Christmas in a group hope or in an unfamiliar place, and many of them separated from brothers and sisters," Gletow said.
"To give them this day that's is just all about fun and magic and happiness and community is really, it's like the highlight of our year," Gletow said.
The organization holds smaller "Wish Parties" once every other month at its Trenton location, and Gletow said it's always looking for volunteers. She said the smaller-scale events are family-friendly if volunteers want to bring their own children to help out.
"We try to encourage families to instill very early in their kids that it's important to be kind and to give back and to treat everybody the same," Gletow said.
There are about 500 wishes that still need to be filled before Christmas. In addition to requests for Legos, bikes, skateboards, board games, arts and crafts and movie gift cards, Gletow pointed out there are more unique requests for things like music lessons or an acting class.
"They're as unique as kids. That's the really beautiful thing about our site, that you can find a child whose story resonates with you, or whose wish is something that you enjoy doing," Gletow said. For those who grant a wish, she noted, "About 90 percent of the money is directly for that item."
The website includes a keyword search, and filters by price, gender and state.
"You can find a wish that fits your budget, that fits your interests as well, and for children who are also looking to be adopted, there's a notation on their page that says this child is available for adoption — and you can actually make an adoption inquiry through us," Gletow said.
There are 100,000 kids in the U.S. who are waiting to be adopted, Gletow said.