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DCFS Christmas Toy Drive
By Colleen Zimny

I remember one particular Christmas when I was nine years old. For months I had been asking Santa for a Barbie kitchen. Although there was always the chance, because of my behavior, that I wouldn't receive what I had asked for, I was pretty confident that I would get what I had asked for. The reason I had such confidence in Santa was because he had never let me down before. Although we weren't wealthy, I always managed to get the toy that I most wanted every single year. I had the most wonderful Christmas mornings that a child could have. Looking back now, I realize that the reason that Santa was always so good to me was my parents. For not only did they provide beautiful Christmas memories for me, but more importantly, love and security all year round. I never went without a meal, clothing, or warm bed to sleep in at night. I was never teased at school for being dirty or not having school supplies. I was never scared about being abused physically, sexually or emotionally, because I had such a loving home environment, a home that I could depend on, every day of the year, not just Christmas.

I am now 34 years old and a parent myself. I also have been in charge of the St. Luke's DCFS annual Christmas Toy Drive for four years now. I feel very blessed to be able to be involved with such a wonderful program for children in need. Although some people might look at my ministry as work, I look at it as a gift for myself. It truly gives me a sense that I am helping a lot of abused or neglected children, at the very least, have a present to open up on Christmas. At the time that I took on this ministry, I was in such a state of distress over what kind of a world some children had to live in. The more involved that I got in children's issues, the more depressed I was about a "light at the end of the tunnel". The atrocities that some children have to endure are absolutely horrific. I know this to be true, especially with children in DCFS. They live in neglectful and abusive homes. They are abused on a daily basis. They are taken from their parents and put into foster care by DCFS, in an attempt to give them a happy childhood. But however nice the foster parents are, they can't take away the hurt, pain, and loss that these children feel for their own parents. Very often they are moved from one foster home to the next. By the time some of these abused children reach adulthood, they have been in more than 10 foster homes.

Reading through the list this year, I came across many children asking for a "coat" for their gift. A winter coat should be something that every child has automatically! One child named Saywon, who is 9, asked for a bike. Sound extravagant? Well, the reason he so desperately wants a boy's bike, is because the one he has now is a girl's bike. He gets teased every time he rides it, something that most children in our parish couldn't even imagine.

I hope that everyone will participate in our annual Toy Drive this year. Very often, when a program goes on for years, people lose sight of the importance of the program. I wrote this article to remind everyone how important their gift is to these children. The gift that they receive from you may be the only gift or positive moment that they experience all year. I thank Father Andrew and St. Luke's Parish for giving me the opportunity to do this ministry. I wish that I could give every child the beautiful childhood that I experienced, but at the very least I will keep trying to get them a gift to open up on Christmas.

Merry Christmas and God Bless,

Colleen Zimny

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