Every year, Westchester’s Friends of Karen organization helps upwards of 1,500 children with life-threatening illnesses and their families during difficult times. With the winter holidays fast approaching, the group is looking to Westchester residents to help fulfill the wish lists of nearly 1,000 local children as part of its Adopt-a-Family initiative.
Helping families with things like paying for transportation and housing when their children are receiving treatment, providing and facilitating support, therapy, advocacy, and much more, Friends of Karen has grown over its 40-plus years to now help families throughout the Hudson Valley, Long Island, Northern New Jersey, and Western Connecticut. With so much going on in their lives, some families might not have the time, funds, or energy to go shopping for the latest toys, clothes, and holiday items.
The Adopt-a-Family program matches donors up with specific children’s wish lists — ill children and their siblings — allowing anyone to fulfill a family’s holiday desires.
“We match the donor up with the child’s wish list or part of a wish list and they purchase specific gifts for specific children. We research the gifts and let donors know the price and where the child saw the item,” says Friends of Karen Volunteer Coordinator Denise Tredwell. “We also welcome cash donations and we will do the shopping.”
Donors receive the first name of a child, age, gender, and any applicable diagnosis along with a list of gifts budgeted for around $100. Supporters can then give as much or as little as they like, choosing specific gifts for multiple children or knocking out whole wish lists individually. Anyone doing their own shopping needs only to drop off or ship their gifts to Friends of Karen by December 18, and the organization then boxes them up with plenty of books, stocking stuffers, and gift wrap for the children’s families to wrap however they like.
“Why shouldn’t the families have the pleasure of wrapping their kids’ gifts?” Tredwell says.
Hot ticket gifts this year according to Tredwell include LEGO sets, L.O.L. Surprise! Blind boxes (especially for younger girls), and — no surprise here — anything Frozen 2. Ironically, with all the toys being purchased, gift cards are one of the most desperately needed donations, she says.
“They’re the hardest gifts to get because people want the good feeling of buying a toy.” Older kids, especially, may ask for gift cards to help buy pricier or multiple items throughout the year.
Friends of Karen is still looking to fulfill the holiday wish lists of hundreds of local children. Anyone interested in adopting a family for the season can reach out to Denise Tredwell at 914.617.4052 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit FriendsOfKaren.org for more information.