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Toys for every girl and boy

By Melanie Ruberti

 

Melanie.ruberti@lagrangenews.com

 

 

Toys for every girl and boy

 

Christmas wishes are coming true for children in foster care

 

 

LaGRANGE – Joanne and Tom Broderick wasted no time going up and down the aisles of a local retail store on Friday tossing Christmas items into two shopping carts.

 

Small trinkets, holiday socks, Mickey Mouse flashlights, candy and more were picked up as stocking stuffers for children living in foster care.

 

“Oh I love these,” exclaimed Joanne as she picked up the Disney-themed flashlights. “Do you think they have any more? she asked her husband.

 

“It kills me to be on a budget,” she sighed.

 

Joanne and Tom help run the Troup County Foster Parent Association. The couple has fostered more than 20 children over the years. They also have four children of their own.

 

For the past four years, Joanne and Tom have used their “special connection” to Santa Claus to provide Christmas gifts for every child in the Troup County foster care system. The special program includes children staying in foster homes outside Troup County, Joanne stated.

 

The children range from newborns to teenagers; some living with foster parents, others staying in group homes, said Joanne.

 

Currently, there are more than 100 youths in the Troup County Foster Care system, she added.

 

Local churches, businesses and families sponsor a child to fulfill their Christmas wish.

 

“They (foster kids) get one item they wished for, one item they need, one complete outfit and a stocking,” explained Joanne. “For a lot of these kids, a store bought outfit is a luxury.

 

“I really feel it is important that we (help Santa) get the kids what they ask for … just like any other kid in America,” she continued.

 

“Just like when they (children) sit on Santa’s lap and tell him what they want,” Tom added.

 

The Brodericks then load up their SUV and trailer to ensure “Santa’s gifts” are delivered to each foster child by Christmas morning.

 

The couple has been known to shop up until December 24, in case more children enter foster care between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

 

The couple usually spends about $100 per child.

 

“We love it,” Tom said. “We’ll go into a store and tell employees, ‘We need a Hello Kitty doll!’ And we’ll tell them, ‘We need this (toy). It’s for a foster kid. Please find it!’ They (employees) usually understand and will scramble around to get it for us.

 

“It makes a difference,” he continued. “Especially for those children placed into foster care right before the holidays.”

 

“Just think about how traumatic it is to be taken from your home right before Christmas,” Joanne added.

 

In addition to the gifts and Christmas stockings, the Troup County Foster Parent Association also throws a holiday party for the kids.

 

Unfortunately, the funds used to provide the children’s last minute Christmas wishes is dwindling.

 

The Troup County Foster Parent Association is a nonprofit organization that relies on donations and money generated through fundraisers from Oct. 1 through Dec. 24 to buy gifts for the children who enter the foster care system during the holidays.

 

The goal for the organization’s Christmas program this year was $2,000. Currently, the group has only raised about $335, Joanne said.

 

The couple is expecting about 20 kids from Troup County to enter the foster care system before Christmas. Right now, the Brodericks are hoping for a Christmas miracle.

 

“These children may have lost everything or haven’t seen their parents in years. But at least we can help get them what they want (for the holiday),” Tom stated.

 

“I can’t change the world, but I can make a difference one child at a time,” said Joanne. “… we really want to wrap these children in love, shower them with attention and get them what they need.”

 

Anyone wanting to donate money for Christmas gifts through the Troup County Foster Parent Association can visit their Facebook page: Troup County Foster Parent Association or visit www.troupfoster.org

 

All donations are tax deductible.

 

Anyone wanting to become a foster parent can contact 1-877-210-KIDS (5437).

 

Melanie Ruberti is a reporter with the LaGrange Daily News. She can be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2156.