VISTA — The sounds of children’s laughter resonated inside the community room at the Boys & Girls Club of Vista during its annual Holiday Celebration Luncheon. The Dec. 21 festivities attracted nearly 100 children.
From Santa Claus, magician Terry Runyon, the Moonlight Show Choir, a scrumptious lunch, to toy giveaways, Christmas spirit was in the air. According to CEO Matt Koumaras, a day like this could not be possible without the support of the community and their neighboring communities.
“The holidays are a challenge for a lot of our families,” Koumaras said. “Around 35 percent of our families have household incomes of less than $30,000 a year which to survive in this area is just impossible. So thankfully, there’s a lot of people in the community that have stepped up to support a lot of our families during this holiday time of year.”
Among the long list of supporters were Judge Earl Maas, American Legion Ladies Auxiliary, Kiwanis Club of Sunrise Vista, St. Francis Church, Brother Benno’s, Girlfriends Care, San Diego County Sheriff’s Department Vista Station (Shop with a Cop), Junior Seau Foundation (Shop with a Jock, American Legion (Shop at Payless Shoes) and Adopt-a-Family Sponsors.
“About 20 people have stepped up from North County to support families and fulfill their holiday ‘wish list’ for Adopt-A-Family,” he said.
Wish list items include toys, clothes and gift cards. Koumaras was quick to point that a ton of people give monetary donations to support the kids so that they can attend the day camps.
Koumaras is personally moved by the holiday celebration every year.
“What is so inspiring to me is how the kids are just so happy to have anything for the holidays — and it could just be the smallest toy,” he said. “It could be something that they’ll talk about into February or March.”
The Boys & Girls Club in Vista was established in 1963. After it was built, the neighborhood sprouted around it. The club is open for children 12 months out of the year, and mainly when school is out.
“The need for our services intensifies in that a lot of our kids, they don’t have somebody at home because mom and dad are working,” he said. “And the holiday season is another time that’s tough because families don’t have funds for Christmas presents.”
Koumaras wants people to know how amazing it is that people care so much about the kids — and the kids know this.
During the holiday school break, the Boys & Girls Club of Vista will be open for most of those days up until Jan. 8, 2018. And that means more hands on-deck, Koumaras said.
“The best thing is volunteering,” he said. “We welcome people with a special talent or (who) just want to come in and mentor the kids for one hour. This could be playing a game or even reading together.”
Another hot ticket item is someone who knows how to play a musical instrument or has a story about growing up and overcoming the obstacles.
“We always love hearing those stories, and that interaction is so important to the kids,” he said.
Koumaras said these inspirational stories offer a new horizon. It lets kids know that anything is possible. From a volunteer standpoint, adults receive a personal award from seeing those smiles.
“You can’t help but to feel a sense of how a new generation is definitely onto something good,” Koumaras said.