For Kaitlyn, 15, Christmas is going to be different this year. She is not excitedly waking up first thing in the morning at her house. She is not going to be sitting on the floor of her living room, unwrapping presents still signed, “From Santa” in her parent’s obvious handwriting. She is not going to be helping herself to a third portion of pecan pie in the dining room. Kaitlyn isn’t going to be home at all this Christmas. Although, if you ask her, she will tell you she is still excited about it.
Kaitlyn will be spending Christmas at Daniel Kids’ residential program, known as SIPP, the Statewide Inpatient Psychiatric Program. SIPP treats kids with emotional and behavioral difficulties that are typically a result of profound trauma. It offers a secure environment to help children with positive behavioral training and emotional support. Daniel will have anywhere from 15 to 30 kids during the holidays.
Rebecca Whitfield, the Director of Residential Services at Daniel Kids, said, “This is one of my favorite times of the year for the kids. Watching them dance at the [Christmas] party and interact with each other is one of the greatest things to see. You get to see them be normal, typical kids … especially for the ones with a lot of trauma. It’s a chance to create new and more positive memories.”
Whitfield is quick to add that these new memories wouldn’t be possible without organizations like Womenade, a charity service dedicated exclusively to helping Daniel Kids. Each year, and for the past 13, Womenade has organized Christmas through volunteer work and donations.
Judy Hicks is the founder of Womenade. She said she started the organization after doing volunteer work outside of Daniel and seeing how little so many kids had. Much of which, she said, were basic necessities.
“All I could think about was my nephew and his room which looked like a mini Toys R Us warehouse,” she said. “I decided I wanted to be known as someone who founded something that made life a little better. I wanted to be everyone’s favorite aunt.”
Christmas is Womenade’s specialty. They bring a DJ for the party, catered food, Mr. and Mrs. Claus and two presents from each child’s “wish list.”
Kaitlyn has recently put together her wish list. She wants a case for her iPod, one that is, “waterproof and indestructible.” She has high hopes too, as she has heard through the grapevine, “you get a lot of presents on Christmas here.” She misses her adoptive family though, and still wishes she could spend Christmas with them. She has plans to write a card to them for Christmas.
“I want to tell them how much I appreciate them for taking me in, when I had no one. I want to let them know that I love them, even though I’ve treated them wrong.”
Destiney, 15, has been in the residential program for a few months. She has made friends with Kaitlyn, as well as the staff there. She said that although she doesn’t really know what Christmas is going to be like, she hopes for the best. She is a self-described, “Christmas person,” who wants to spend time during Christmas with a few of the staff members and has told them, “they better be ready because I’m going to be decorating.”
Destiney said she would like an MP3 player, a sweatshirt and some Nike shoes, but if she could get anything for anyone else for Christmas, she would give Kaitlyn the chance to spend it home, with her family.
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