HOLMDEL, NJ: Santa and his helpers made a special visit to Holmdel recently, where they joined friends like Snow White, Tinkerbell, Merida and Olaf...All gathered to celebrate the holidays with the families of The Frances Foundation, a Holmdel based charity that provides love and support to pediatric cancer families. 

Over 400 guests (including about 40 volunteers), attended the winter wonderland holiday event complete with a Candy Cane Walkway entrance, Santa's Workshop, a photo booth, family portrait station, an endless buffet and dessert table, Santa and his helpers, a fireplace surrounded by 450 toys, a care bear decorating station, various arts and crafts stations including an ornament making table, a popular slime station, cookie decorating, awesome face painters, DJ Jay with music & dancing, Hackensack Meridian Health Canine Therapy Pets, The Moment of Magic characters, Snowmen, Reindeer, the Gingerbread House room, and more!  

It was a magical experience from the warm greetings from Elves at the entrance of Vonage, guiding guests to the Candy Cane Walkway that lead to all the event attractions, eventually leading to the main party room filled with hundreds of people, and over 400 toys across the front of the room around the fireplace near Santa's chair. The toys were donated by numerous Frances Foundation supporters, many local businesses, etc.

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For example, Seaview Orthopaedics with six offices in Monmouth and Ocean Counties chose the Frances Foundation to donate their Holiday Toy Collection donations to.  Micheal Gibson, an executive for Seaview Orthopaedics, recently orchestrated the opening of their newest office in Holmdel. Gibson commented, "When we opened our Holmdel office in October, we strategically identified opportunities to support local charities. Supporting the Frances Foundation helps numerous families right in our communities, on an ongoing basis. The amount of assistance they provide is amazing. We are proud supporters."

There were endless smiles and laughter. It was one big party celebrating the holiday season. Teen volunteer Gianna Garland of Colts Neck commented, "This event is amazing. I volunteer with many charitable organizations, and I've never seen anything of this magnitude. The positive energy and excitement puts a smile on everyone's face. Everyone has been having the best time, including the volunteers!"

When a family hears those words, "Your child has cancer," it is the beginning of the unimaginable, unexpected journey that no family thinks they will go through. Often times the family is significantly also impacted financially.  In addition to unexpected medical expenses,  two income families often must go down to one, as a parent's priority is to be with their sick child. Frances Foundation provides families with support as they navigate the rough waters.

In addition to providing financial support when needed, and fulfilling wishes of the pediatric cancer children, The Frances Foundation hosts several fun events a year, honoring both the Warriors; the children who are battling cancer, and the Angels; the children who were taken too soon by cancer. To attend one of their events is to experience a range of emotions. The experience incudes warrior families living every second to the fullest creating an indescribable level of positive energy. The Frances Foundation organically creates an immediate support group for families battling pediatric cancer, and those who have battled and are in remission, or have sadly passed.  

The Angel families walk the most difficult journey as bereaved parents, grandparents, siblings, friends.   This combination creates an environment where families genuinely understand what one another is going through. Frances Foundation provides hope and love, and eases or takes away the loneliness and isolation that many pediatric cancer families experience. Lifetime bonds are made. The testimonials to the positive impact of the Frances Foundation's work is endless. The events provide the families with an opportunity to have fun and make beautiful memories together. It's a break from the cancer treatment routine.

Longtime Frances Foundation supporter/volunteer, Steve "Pops" Cittadino commented, "Frances Foundation is the best charity to support. They help more families that you could ever keep track of. The founder Bob Heugle is a real leader and I've watched him grow this charity into what it is today and it's amazing."

Warrior Jack's moms said, "My kids had a blast dancing and making ornaments! They loved all the photos and the cookie decorating, too! They can’t stop talking about how much fun they had! They loved the picture with Santa, and they were thrilled when they found out they each got to choose a gift! And then another gift! They are so happy, and I am so grateful for Frances Foundation's generosity and kindness. There was more to see and do at every turn today, it was so much more than we ever imagined, and we can’t thank you enough for including us. We are so thankful for the generous gifts and fantastic time we had together today." 

After a large group picture was taken of all the children, each child chose one toy as they met Santa. Then each child received an opportunity to choose a second toy. The contagious joy and excitement of the children was felt by all.

For more information about the Frances Foundation, or to make a donation, click here.  Professional photos were taken by Tom Zapcic.