The holiday season is a time of family, friends and plenty of good cheer. It can also be a time of great isolation for those who don’t have loved ones with which to share this special time of year. Among those often lost in the shuffle? Those in the foster-care system. For this reason, the Darol Rodrock Foundation has set out to make this holiday season one of surprise and joy for some local foster-care youth.
Among the first festive events the Foundation elves have planned is a series of care packages to be shipped to the foster kids who recently went away to college. Between 25 and 30 baskets will be mailed out the last week of November and are slated to arrive during the first week of December — right in time for finals. The care packages were likely to include granola bars, Chex mix, Cheez-Its, peanut-butter crackers, fruit, Gatorade, hot chocolate and more. (Have any other great gifting ideas? The Foundation welcomes any donations to add to the mix! Contact Abby Young at 913-681-2121 for more details.)
But the baskets are only part of the distinctive needs these talented kids will face. Many will have nowhere to turn when their college dorms close for the holidays. The Darol Rodrock Foundation is in the process of trying to find safe places for these young people to spend the holidays.
For almost 100 foster-care kids who remain in town, there are plenty of plans brewing as well. The Foundation elves have been hard at work planning a holiday party on Dec. 10. During this “country Christmas” themed shindig, Santa will make an appearance, and kids can enjoy sleigh rides around the park before sitting down for a hearty dinner. Darol Rodrock himself will likely speak to the kids, before they settle in for some sticky s’mores as a sweet ending to an unforgettable evening.
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The night is a perfect way to treat not only those children in foster care, but also those who care for them, including residential staff, case managers, and their foster families. And as part of the evening’s festivities, Rodrock hopes to present each child with a stocking complete with a Visa gift card. (The Foundation has received many requests by those wanting to help foster-care children during the holidays. Donations of gift cards, ideally by Dec. 6, would be a wonderful opportunity.)
“The holidays are such a special time for children,” Rodrock said. “Kids are filled with so much hope and joy this time of year, and we wanted to make sure the circumstances of foster care didn’t dim that delight for some local kids. Every child should look forward to the holidays. Every child should light up at seeing Santa and eagerly anticipate the surprise waiting inside a brightly wrapped package.”
Yet the Foundation elves are still not finished. As in years past, the Foundation is holding an ongoing toy drive, in addition to collecting winter jackets, hats, gloves, scarves and blankets. Oftentimes, children in foster-care must move from place to place, and their belongings get left behind or lost in the shuffle. Still others are outright overlooked during this gift-giving season. So the Foundation is gathering toys, gifts and warm outerwear for all age ranges to be handed out to local children in foster care.
If you’re interested in likewise playing elf this holiday season, the Foundation would welcome any assistance you can offer, be it gift cards, toys, or warm coats and gloves. Such little kindnesses go such a big way in showing these children they’re not forgotten during this most special time of year.
And, excitedly, there are some big plans underway for 2016. Rodrock is under contract on a building in downtown Overland Park, which he hopes to convert into a home for kids aging out of the foster-care system who’re looking for support and guidance as they transition into the real world.
The plan is still in its infancy, as the Foundation works with the city on zoning, ensures the building is sound, and talks with experts in the field to guarantee these kids would have the utmost support. Still, it’s a need that’s most desperate: There are currently more than 700 children who’ve aged out in the State of Kansas who could benefit from a home of this type.
For more information, visit DarolRodrockFoundation.org.