By Cheryl Conway
Residents at the Saint Peter’s Orphanage in Denville can expect some extra presents this holiday season thanks to some caring students from the Oak Knoll private school in Summit.
Some upper class females hosted a Breakfast With Santa on Sat., Dec. 3, from 10 a.m. to noon at the Madison Community Center in Madison. Participants joined Santa and his elves for breakfast, games, face painting, Bingo, dancing, crafts, coloring and a photo booth.
The breakfast was organized by sophomores Gabrielle Christie of Madison and her friend Sabina Criqui through a new club Christie organized this past year, Caring For Kids.
“The Breakfast with Santa went well,” says Christie. “We raised approximately $500. We had expected a bit of a bigger turnout, but we are all so proud for a first attempt at how well we did.”
Participants paid $13 at the door, or $10 in advance to attend the breakfast. All proceeds go to buying Christmas presents for the boys at Saint Peter’s Orphanage, a non-profit that takes in boys 11 to 18 who have been orphaned mainly with some form of mental impairment, according to Christie.
For the past four years, Christie has involved herself at the orphanage to help out when she can. Her work at the home began during her effort of earning her Girl Scout Silver Award. She, and the other Girl Scouts, involved themselves in various tasks such as making new regulation signs, raising funds for pool chairs, a new basketball hoop and new towels.
She says her goal with the Girls Scout Silver Award project was “to improve someone’s life.”
To Christie, her work at the orphanage did not stop after she earned that Girl Scout award. Last year, she raised money to get them Christmas cards and presents for the orphans. They had all asked for gifts under $30.
“They’re all just sweet boys,” says Christie. “Saint Peters is an amazing place.”
This past October, Christie organized a bake sale and raised $500 to treat the boys at the orphanage to pizza and bowling, the first project through Caring For Kids that Christie began that same month.
Christie approached school leaders in September about her idea to start the group at the school, which is girls only grades seven through 12; and co-ed at the lower school grades kindergarten through sixth. There is currently 40 members in the club, out of an enrollment of 250, she says.
The main goal of Caring For Kids is to help the orphanage, says Christie.
“Everyone was so amazed with the boys and knew that we needed to do more,” says Christie. By Nov., members suggested the breakfast with Santa idea with a goal to raise enough to purchase presents for each of the 13 boys at the orphanage, cards and cookies.
The boys have a wish list that the club members were going to use to purchase presents.
“They have a lot of trouble deciding what they want sometimes,” says Christie. “One boy told me when we were bowling he wants new boxing gloves.”
The breakfast with Santa was geared toward families, so they can appreciate that they have each other.
“Family is so important,” says Christie. “People want to really cherish their families and learn from the orphanage,” a place which has wrapped around Christie’s heart.
“I truly love it so much,” says Christie about being able to help out at the orphanage. “It’s so important to give back. We live in a town that’s so fortunate. After meeting with the boys, special people that they are,” her purpose only gets stronger.
“Small organizations like Saint Peters get lost,” Christie explains why supporting the orphanage is so important to her, “as they are unknown.”
Caring For Kids meets every eight school days, but “we only get 15 minutes,” says Christie, adding that it has been difficult to plan initiatives. “We don’t have a lot of time to get stuff done,” she says, but through emails they are able to organize.
Christie says that the goal is to possibly expand with additional fundraisers to increase outreach to other groups such as a local children’s hospital and St. Jude’s.