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Childspree

Empowering Foster Children for a Successful School Year

Doesn’t every kid deserve to start the new school year off with an A+? Unfortunately, for many children in the OC foster system, the excitement of getting prepped for the upcoming school year with new clothes, a backpack, and school supplies is nothing more than a distant dream. However, an annual event called Childspree, held at Macy’s in the Mainplace Mall, aims to change that. By pairing children in foster care with adult Shopping Buddies, Childspree provides an unforgettable shopping experience that empowers foster children and offers support to foster parents. Childspree 2023 is taking place on Sunday, July 23 at 8 AM.
    Childspree begins with breakfast which is generously donated by Applebee’s in the Mainplace Mall. The foster children, guardians, social workers and Shopping Buddies enjoy the meal together while getting acquainted before they hit the racks. Armed with a shopping list of clothing necessities, they embark on a memorable Back-to-School shopping trip. With the guidance of their Shopping Buddy, each child selects new school clothes and shoes, ensuring they are well-prepared and feeling confident about the academic year ahead. In addition to clothing, every child receives a new backpack filled with essential school supplies. For foster parents who often bear the financial burden of providing for multiple children, Childspree offers much-needed relief. Many families have come to rely on this program annually, recognizing it as a valuable source of support. The Partnership with Macy’s is incredible. Employees wear red shirts that say, “Volunteering is always in fashion at Macy’s,” and these people truly live up to that standard. Macy’s applies a special discount for every child, they set up their patio with brightly adorned tables, walls are draped with welcome signs and balloons arches. This is all done on employees’ volunteer time.
Childspree incorporates a unique element by engaging two different families who are preparing for upcoming B’Mitzvah celebrations. These families join forces to fill the backpacks, decorate and stuff goodie bags, and encourage their guests to donate school supplies. By integrating philanthropic activities into their Mitzvah Project, they foster a sense of community and emphasize the importance of tzedakah and tikkun olam. This collaboration not only benefits the children directly but also instills a sense of social responsibility in those participating in the B’Mitzvah project. Notably, Childspree is proud to have the presence of police officers and firefighters, demonstrating to the children that interactions with individuals in uniform are not always tied to negative situations. At the end of the event, the sight of a one-hundred-foot ladder raised from a large red fire engine adds an extra thrill and awe-inspiring moment for all to see.
    Childspree is proudly celebrating its 10th year of making a difference in the lives of foster children. The event offers various volunteer opportunities, attracting families, teens, and individuals looking for a hands-on, face-to-face, and impactful mitzvah experience. With over 150 volunteers required for the event, most of whom come from Temple Beth El of South Orange County, the community’s dedication to supporting foster children is truly remarkable. Volunteers of all ages, ranging from 6 to 85 years old come together to make Childspree a success. This program is entirely funded and supported by donations from the community.
    The true beauty of the Childspree program lies in the reciprocal nature of the experience. When the volunteers leave the event, they carry with them a mix of physical and emotional exhaustion. Similarly, the child participants may feel tired, but it is a fulfilling fatigue akin to the satisfaction one feels after a challenging workout. Childspree not only equips foster children with the essentials they need for school, it also provides them with a memorable day full of joy, support, and a profound sense of belonging.
    Childspree is a shining example of a community-driven initiative that empowers foster children and creates a positive impact on their educational journey. By providing essential Back-to-School supplies, clothing, and a supportive environment, Childspree ensures that these children have the opportunity to start the new school year with confidence and enthusiasm. As it celebrates its 10th anniversary, Childspree continues to inspire volunteers of all ages to come together and make a lasting difference in the lives of foster children, fostering hope and brighter futures for each child involved.  

KIM GUBNER is a contributing writer to Jlife Magazine.

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