PARKLAND, FL- Around 35 volunteers from Parkland and the surrounding communities helped throw a beautiful Christmas party for local families in need this holiday season. Hope South Florida hosted the party on December 14 at the home of Hope South Florida and New Life United Methodist Church in Fort Lauderdale. The event was created by Parkland resident Heather Khalil about 4 years ago, while Hope South Florida has taken the reigns with hosting the event. 

According to a Hope South Florida organizer, the party has grown each of the past four years. The Parkland volunteer group continues to increase in their enthusiasm for the celebration. 

"I love participating in this event because these children have such a hard time and the holidays should be a time for joy and celebration," shared volunteer Robin Friedland. "This event gives these children one day to feel like a normal child who can eat a holiday meal, participate in craft activities and receive presents. For one moment these children can forget their everyday struggle and enjoy the spirit of Christmas." 

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This year's Christmas party sponsored 184 children through a number of local programs, including Rapid Rehousing, Hope for Vets, Faith in Action, and Day Center Divisions. Each child received a Christmas package filled with pajamas, stuffed animals, blankets and books that were donated by residents of Parkland and surrounding communities. 

The party was not just a blessing for those that received, but it was extra special for the givers as well. 

"I felt like the one receiving a gift was me! To be part of something so beautiful and meaningful was indescribable. Sweet and loving families enjoying the day, complete with lunch, treats, activities and presents. (It was) an absolute honor to have been a small part of such a great event," shared local volunteer Yesi Hill.  "Anything that brings joy and happiness to children and families is not only a blessing, but also important work. Special thanks and recognition to Heather and all the volunteers!"

At the event, the children were able to participate in Christmas themed craft projects, created giant gingerbread men, painted nails, played games, sang Christmas carols, and even made Santa hats. The kids had a chance to get their photos taken with Santa and Mrs. Claus while the other volunteers were dressed as elves.

The group plans to continue the annual tradition. "Hope South Florida operates on a shoestring budget, so they really appreciate the help!" shared Khalil. 

"It is such a special way to kick off the holiday season and really bring the true meaning of Christmas to the forefront," added volunteer Karen Wittmeier. "Everyone is full of joy; both volunteers and guests. I look forward to it every year!"