3 steps to starting a “children for children” holiday tradition

I’m grateful that when I was a little girl, my parents started a beautiful tradition that taught us kids to focus on caring and giving as part of our holiday festivities.

Every year, they’d help us learn about children around the world who were suffering and we’d choose a group of children we wanted to help. Then they helped us invite all our friends and neighbors to a “Children for Children” concert at our house. All of us kids would perform a little piano piece or do a dance or hold up a picture we’d painted or whatever. The audience (our parents and other friends and neighbors) would “pay” to come to the performance by putting a donation into a box. Then we kids would give all the money we’d “earned” to help the needy children we’d learned about.

I loved those Children for Children concert memories. I have great memories of helping to rearrange all the furniture and round up chairs from neighbors to accommodate a ridiculously large crowd in our not-so-big house (it started small – but wow, it sure grew over the years!). I loved the delicious refreshments. I loved having all my friends and their families there and seeing everyone share their talents. And I loved, loved, loved counting up that money in the donation box at the end and feeling so good that we could help those in need.

So I’ve carried this tradition on with my own family. Our first Children for Children concert consisted of my kids inviting some friends over for a “fundraiser” involving looking at pictures of the needy children that my kids had decided to help (via the internet) and then enjoying pizza and a holiday movie together. Prior to the party, all the kids who came as well as my kids did some chores around the house to earn up money to bring and donate.

Our simple Children for Children pizza and movie party fundraiser

Then the next year, we did a pretty simple and casual “Children for Children” concert where we had a few families come enjoy a night of music and giving at our house.

Last night, we put on our 6th annual Children for Children concert. We’ve outgrown our house so, for the past couple of years, we’ve used an old church-turned-community-center down the street.  And it’s been such a joy to see my children take on more and more ownership of the event each year. This year, my 12-year-old son Ashton made the invitations, set up a Facebook event to invite people, organized who would be on the program, arranged for people to bring refreshments and was an excellent emcee at the event. 11-year-old Isaac greeted everyone at the door and was the back-stage manager for the little Nativity Scene we did at the end plus he passed out invitations. 9-year-old Eliza made the donation box, headed up the angels in the Nativity and got all her friends involved. And my 7-year-old twins assisted with everything. (For more details on last night’s event, visit my blog post about it here.)

We spent the evening watching cute kids do everything from holding up a picture they’d painted to singing a song to playing bells together with siblings to doing dances to reciting a poem. Some performances were polished. Some not-so-much. One of my favorite moments was when one sweet neighbor girl got up there to sing and lost her nerve. After a few moments of silence with no one knowing quite how to handle the situation, three other neighborhood kids rushed up there to be her back-up singers and the four of them carried off a rousing rendition of “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.” That little moment seemed to typify what the whole evening was about – children seeing needs and helping other children. Whether you’re helping orphans in another country get healthy food and medical care or helping a neighbor sing a song, giving and helping kid-to-kid is a beautiful thing to see.

Perhaps my favorite part of each “Children for Children” night is opening the box of donation with my kids. I think they’re more excited to open this box than pretty much any other box they get at Christmas.

How wonderful to see my kids so excited about getting something that they get to give away! They get stars in their eyes as we count up the money and talk about all the great food and warm blankets and fun activities that THEIR money they worked hard to earn will help their little orphan friends to have. It’s a beautiful sight.

For anyone who’d like to get their kids involved in some sort of a “Children for Children” holiday giving effort, here’s a very simple 3-step process for you:

1. Learn about children in need.

You could watch the following little video about the Bulgarian Orphans with your children (I took these pictures myself when I was in Bulgaria a few years ago to do training for orphanage caregivers there and I still cry every time I look at these sweet children who desperately need the love and health that One Heart Bulgaria helps to provide. We gave all the proceeds from last night to One Heart Bulgaria.) Other great and trusted organizations that help children that my family and/or friends have been heavily involved with are Rising Star (serves children from leper colonies in India – my parents and most of my siblings have been there and most of us sponsor kids there) and Care for Life (my brother and sister-in-law worked with this organization in Mozambique for several months and saw the huge difference they make as they build families and empower people to make their lives better). There are many other charities you may also want to look into. But choosing one that offers videos, stories or photos will help make it all the more “real” for your children.

2. Talk about what your kids could do to earn money to help meet the needs of these needy children.

They could simply do some extra chores around the house or offer to do chores for neighbors to raise money. They could invite friends over for a little movie party and ask them to bring a donation in the amount of their choice  and show a little movie about needy children and talk about how they plan to help before showing a fun holiday movie. They could put on a little “Children for Children” concert where they perform for others and ask for donations (this can be done with just a few families – doesn’t have to be a big deal – could grow over time . . .).

3. Help your kids donate the money to the charity you’ve selected together.

I totally recommend One Heart Bulgaria, Rising Star or Care for Life since I know the people involved and know that they make the money go a lot ways and put it directly towards the most prevalent needs of children. But there are many other wonderful charities you could look at and a short Internet search could yield some great further ideas. Most charities have a “donate now” button that’s pretty easy to locate on their website and it’s a quick and easy thing to sit down with your kids and make your donation online.

QUESTION: What holiday giving traditions work for your family?

CHALLENGE: Follow the three steps above!

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