During the final few months of each year, my office building, Prudential Plaza, partners with the Chicago Youth Programs (CYP) organization for the holiday season. Prudential Plaza has a wing of its building completely filled with Christmas trees that have been decorated and sponsored by various companies throughout Chicago and all of the money raised from the tree fundraiser is donated to Chicago Youth Programs. There is also a Letters to Santa program where Prudential Plaza tenants donate a holiday gift to a child from CYP.
Chicago Youth Programs works with kids from pre-kindergarten through college, and all of their participants live in one of Chicago’s most underserved communities: Washington Park, Uptown, North Lawndale, and Cabrini Green. The children taking part in the Holiday Sponsor program were between grades pre-K to 8th grade, and many of them would not receive a Christmas gift without the Letters to Santa program.
The Prudential Plaza concierge sent out a building-wide email about the Letters to Santa program, and at first I was intimidated to do it because all of the kids I know typically want expensive gifts for Christmas such as Apple Watches, iPhones, video game consoles, etc., and I was nervous that a child would desire a gift well beyond my holiday budget. After a while, I went downstairs anyway and chose an envelope out of Santa’s mailbox. My envelope was for a 6-year-old girl and her Christmas wish was a Barbie doll. The envelope also came with a set of guidelines: keep the gift under $25.00, wrap the gift, and return the gift by 9:00AM on Monday, December 17.
I went back down to the Santa’s mailbox with some coworkers at lunch, and I decided to select an envelope for a boy as well. The second child, a 10-year-boy wished for a GameStop gift card. One of my coworkers was reading through the letters out of curiosity and he casually mentioned how a 10-year-old girl wanted a pack of bath bombs for Christmas. I immediately snatched up her Santa envelope as well because I am practically a bath bomb connoisseur — I love them! I knew I could get this girl the greatest scented bath bombs she’d ever had, and she became the third child on my Holiday Sponsor list.
I purchased a set of nine bath bombs on Black Friday for the 10-year-old girl. In early December, Prudential Plaza had a holiday fair with several local vendors and I bought a pack of snowflake shaped bath bombs from her. The local vendor with the handcrafted soaps, bath bombs, and skincare products was Golden Sapphire. You can find more of their items here.
I picked up a $25.00 GameStop gift card for the boy. It was my first time entering a GameStop, and I had never realized the popularity surrounding Fortnite until entering that shop. The whole store was preteen boys and their Moms purchasing Fortnite-related items. I put the gift card inside of a Christmas card and wrote a nice note inside.
For the little girl, I bought three Barbie dolls from Target. I put a lot of thought into the Barbie dolls because I didn’t know what the little girl looked like, but I wanted her to feel represented in the doll that I bought for her. I chose two Barbie dolls with different hairstyles, and a little Kelly doll because playing Barbies is always more fun when Barbie’s little sister is around for the adventures. I also picked her up a pack of Barbie doll dresses made by Crayola, and she can color on the dresses with the special fabric markers from the set.
I picked up some boxes, wrapping papers and bows (because presents are always better with bows). I also bought the candy canes filled with M&M candies to stick on top of the gifts because receiving candy for Christmas has always been a tradition in my family and it just makes the gifts a little bit more special.
On Sunday evening, I delivered the wrapped packages to the large Santa Claus sleigh in my office building’s lobby. The gifts were due set to be delivered to the children of Chicago Youth Programs (CYP) on Thursday, which means they have them now. I hope it helps make their Christmas a little bit brighter. Also, thank you to everyone who provided suggestions on the best stores to purchase Barbie dolls! You guys are the greatest!