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It’s that time of year. Recently, we held the annual Angel Party Christmas event held by the American Society of Sao Paulo. It’s early in the year, but this way everyone is around before the holidays to participate and help run the event.

It takes many volunteers, because there are many children invited, some 250 this year, I believe. These are children who live in orphanages, or who go to “day care” during the week because they would otherwise be alone all day.

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This being my third year, I recognize some of the young ones, and notice that some of the older ones are now gone. They are on their own after 18. That’s hard to think about.

But there are plenty of little ones to take their place.

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For this one day, they are ecstatic. They arrive on the buses around noon, and immediately file into the cafeteria for their lunch. Once they finish, they are free to go outside and play sports on the sports field or go into the gym and play any number of games or do crafts. This year’s big hits at the crafts were rubber band looms (making necklaces and bracelets), and face painting. The games of chance were easy enough to guarantee that every child got a prize at every event.

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By the time the games ended, the kids’ stuffbags were bulging, and they hadn’t even yet received their main gift bag!

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The excitement was too much for some, who needed a brief shutdown before the big event: Santa!

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(Santa was delayed this year. We normally have two Santas, but the AmSoc storage was robbed earlier this year, and it turns out that one of the Santa suits was taken. So, it took some reshuffling of chairs and photographers, and the one Santa had every single child sit on his lap. Long day for Santa!)

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After sitting on Santa’s lap, they received the gift bag with items chosen specifically for them. Every child received a backpack, shoes, a sweatshirt or sweater, underwear and socks, pants, a shirt, candy, and a toy (min. $50). Pretty awesome gift bags, if you ask me.

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As soon as each child in each home received their bags, they were scooted on buses to head home. The buses were much quieter when they left than when they arrived.

Then it was time to clean up, and off to one of the organizer’s house for a party. Another hugely successful Angel Party, thanks to Eileen Tasso, Sue Sileci, and a host of volunteers.

Thank you to everyone who donated for the kids. You brought them great happiness!

Finally, a reflection on charity: every single person who helped make this event happen, whether as a volunteer at the event, or as a sponsor, was THANKFUL for the opportunity to participate. Each felt that he or she had received a gift in being able to provide. For me, that is one of the true signs of a successful outpouring of charity: everyone benefits.

The Angel Party isn’t about the gifts. It’s about children being embrace, encouraged, and loved … by strangers. My hope is that one day, they will be in a position to pass this along in their lives. To love other strangers, and feel fortunate to be able to do so.