TAMPA, Fla — Hundreds of children across the Tampa Bay area get to experience the magic of Christmas all thanks to a local nonprofit called Christmas for Fosters.
It’s a passion project that began five and a half years ago, bringing joy now to more than 500 children.
"Most people don’t know this but nine kids a day, on average, come into foster care in the Hillsborough County area," said Sarah Weaver, director of Christmas For Fosters.
Seeing that need, Weaver and her husband became foster parents. Weaver said she wanted to do more, and she knew what she was doing wasn’t enough. It’s why she created Christmas for Fosters in 2016.
“It started for 45 kids in Hillsborough County," Weaver explained. "We ended up being able to get so many sponsors that we needed more kids. That year we ended up serving more than 100 kids. Every year since it has grown bigger and bigger.”
it now serves nearly 500 foster children. The gifts range from basketballs to bikes. All of toys donated are meant to bring smiles to every boy and girl.
“Unfortunately more often than not, these kids have never experienced Christmas," Weaver said. "They’ve never had a Christmas tree, a gift, or Christmas dinner or anything like that. So we do everything in our power to make this, literally the best Christmas ever.”
Now, they get to experience the joy of Christmas morning and – for a moment – forget about the hardships of life or where they’ve come from. The donations also help the foster families who’ve taken children in.
“It can become a huge burden for families especially if they are larger families 5,6,7,8,9,10 kids; it adds up quickly," Weaver said.
She adds that the community support, in this way, has been remarkable and memorable.
"The state of Florida provides a board rate for all of our families but it doesn’t cover extra things like Christmas, birthdays or anything like that," she said. "It really does provide them the encouragement they need to keep going”
Even after the Christmas, the need continues as they provide help for foster children and their families all year long.