It’s 7 p.m. on a weary November night, and most of the floor has cleared out for the weekend. I sit in an office, wearing a Santa hat and wrapping a Batmobile. And serenading my friend Brenda with “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer.” Brenda is impressed I know all the words. I’m impressed she doesn’t flee the room with her hands over her ears.
My name is Carli Entin and I am, perhaps, the most zealous fan of the New York Cares Winter Wishes Program.
I started participating in 2001, sorting through children’s letters at the New York Cares offices and persuading my co-workers to play wishmaker to an underprivileged child. In time, Winter Wishes became a yearly ritual on our floor. Our group typically purchases gifts for 50-75 children and teens each year.
I love the chaos, the good cheer, and the camaraderie that comes with participating with this amazing group of people. My colleagues pore through the letters we receive, searching for the one that touches their heart or tickles their funny bone. (Seriously, one year a kid asked for a real live elephant.) They ask me to decipher words like “Yu-Gi-Oh” and “Optimus Prime.”
By the beginning of December, we’ve usually taken over an empty office and filled it with so many toys and clothes and electronic doo-dads there’s no room to walk. And as a bunch of us sit by the windows coveting the toys we’ve purchased, wrapping the gifts, and occasionally bursting into song, I know that we’re getting at least as much joy out of giving these gifts than the children and teens who receive them will have opening them.
I know that amongst the current economic downturn, rising prices on just about everything, and a sense of uncertainty about the future, it can be hard to think about buying a gift for a child you’ve never even met. But I’d like to take this moment to urge you to sign up for the Winter Wishes program this year. It’s during these rough patches that your help is most needed. Many of these children and teens are living in group homes or shelters. Some would prefer a winter jacket and a pair of pants that fit to any toy you could give them.
If you’re concerned about cost, consider teaming up with two or three friends to sponsor a child, teenager, or even a family. Since recipients are not supposed to ask for anything that costs more than $40, chipping in with two other people would cost you less than $15 each. You can also make a general donation to New York Cares. Every little bit helps the organization reach its goal of making the holidays a little more special for 30,000+ people.
And if you happen to know where we can get a live elephant for $40 or less, please let us know.