EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

December 27, 2012

Santa's Helper brightens holidays for area foster children

In everything from holiday dresses and sweaters to jeans and T-shirts, 137 kids of all ages did the hokey pokey, chicken dance and limbo, laughing and smiling as disc jockey Lisa Berry Driscoll enthusiastically ushered them through each move.

There was also plenty of pizza, chocolate milk, cookies and cake.

Dozens of sacks of holiday gifts were wrapped and ready for Santa to deliver at the annual Santa party for foster kids throughout the Merrimack Valley last week.

The Santa’s Helper program, run by the non-profit Foster Kids of the Merrimack Valley, provides holiday gifts for more than 300 kids, from infants to age 12, living in foster care throughout the region.

“Most of these kids would not get anything at all. It’s very hard for foster families to afford anything,” said Donna Kelleher, a FKMV board member.

The Santa’s Helper program organizes volunteers to buy holiday gifts for each foster child. The volunteers, either a single person or a group, are matched with a foster child’s wish list, which includes winter clothing they need and toys they are hoping to get.

This year, 5-year-old Melvin had his heart set on a red Power Ranger. “I can’t wait,” he said, watching and waiting to see when Santa will come through the door.

The children who attend the party cannot be photographed or publicly identified. The party date and location are also not publicized for the safety and privacy of the foster children, organizers said.

Larry Giordano of Methuen remembers growing up in a foster home and attending Salvation Army Christmas parties each year.

“It was fantastic,” he said, recalling how his foster mother would receive a fruit basket and he always got a nice toy.

“Something I could take home and play with ... And there was pizza, popcorn and cupcakes,” said Giordano, who is president of the board of directors and FKMV founder.

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