Featured in the video above, Archer Gillett is a 4-year-old girl living with her adoptive family in Newcastle, Oklahoma. For many foster families like Archer’s, the holiday season can be hectic.
“Generally, I have five or six or seven (foster) kids around the holiday season, and going out and finding that perfect toy for each kid is a lot of work,” said Whitney Hollingsworth, Archer’s adoptive mother.
And what is Archer asking Santa Claus for this year?
“A pet unicorn that can really fly, not pretend,” Archer said, emphasizing that Santa can do anything. “That’s all I want. He can (do it). He is magic.”
But what if Santa really can’t find a pet unicorn?
“A for-real dragon that breathes fire and roasts marshmallows,” Archer said.
OK Foster Wishes provides ‘Christmas miracles’
Maybe you won’t be able to find a flying unicorn or a fire-breathing, marshmallow-roasting dragon, but that doesn’t mean you can’t help provide the perfect gift for one of Oklahoma’s 6,000 children in foster care this holiday season.
OK Foster Wishes is an annual effort to meet the holiday gift desires of Oklahoma foster children, and this year the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy and the Oklahoma Department of Human Services are partnering to collect donations.
“There are lots of ways that OK Foster Wishes blesses foster families,” Hollingsworth said. “One is that it sort of takes the planning out of it.”
Archer’s adoptive parents began fostering her when she was 9 months old, and they have been fostering children for seven years now. On more than one occasion, OK Foster Wishes has helped make Christmas miracles come true, Hollingsworth said.
For example, a couple of years ago, Whitney got a call in early December about a boy needing a home and a lot of medical attention for severe burns. There were many days she had to take off work and travel to the treatment center, making Christmas shopping extra challenging. OK Foster Wishes was able to step in and make sure the boy got the gifts he wanted.
This year, OICA and OK Foster Wishes are working in conjunction with the OKDHS Office of Community and Faith Engagement to provide gifts to children living in more than 50 counties across the state.
DHS Director Ed Lake said the gift effort is important to children in foster care, child welfare workers and foster families.
“This is a way for us to bring joy into the lives of the children we serve and to assist the foster families who have opened their hearts and homes to these children,” Lake said. “There is nothing more rewarding than helping to make a child happy, and we are so grateful for the many partners and organizations that have joined us in this effort year after year.”
Hollingsworth knows firsthand just how important OK Foster Wishes can be.
“Those gift cards or that nice makeup set or really going through and finding that exact thing they want on their list — that’s really powerful to a kid that’s in a really bad spot,” she said. “It’s not that the place itself is bad or unsafe. The issue is that they’re not with their family on the holidays. It’s just not how it should be.”
OICA CEO Joe Dorman said the program helps to show children in foster care that they have a community filled with people who care about them.
“Children need to know they are loved and cared for, and receiving holiday presents is a great reminder that they are,” Dorman said. “I’m encouraging Oklahomans to give generously to make sure we put a smile on these kids’ faces this holiday season.”
Here are a couple of ways you can put a smile on a kid’s face this year:
- You can make an online donation. DHS child welfare workers are currently working with foster parents and children to compile gift “wish lists.” A suggested donation of $75 will be used to purchase a gift on that list as well as support transportation and delivery services.
- Or, if you want to purchase gifts, you can sign up to receive a wish list which will be sent out via email in November. Gifts can be delivered at select drop-off points, listed at okfosterwishes.org.
More about OICA
OICA works to support child well-being in Oklahoma. They are a local partner of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which releases the annual KIDS COUNT Data Book as well as a recent report titled “Race for Results: Building a Path for Opportunity for All Children.”