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A Personal Request - Make this Christmas Special

At this moment, there are more than 12,000 children in Oklahoma's foster care system. They are kids who have endured ugliness in their homes, separated from parents they love, no matter how flawed those parents might be, and they're often facing the uncertainty of whether those families will be reunited, or if the problems are too serious, they are placed up for indefinite wait to be adopted. Some of those kids end up in great "forever families." Others never get a permanent home and after several years they "age out" of the system.

These are not bad kids. I know this personally. Some people are born to be foster parents. Others, like myself, are meant to be short term foster parents who gain a forever family. Christmas can be bleak for these kids. I know, again, from personal experience, that these kids were not getting much under the tree.

I've seen foster kids with just a bucket of toys given away at McDonalds (with a couple of stale McNuggets left in to ensure these are not mistaken for anything nicer). I began supporting Foster Wishes, a 501c3 non-profit group, about a year ago. Formed in 2010, the group is dedicated to making Christmas special for these kids.

This is not an indictment of the great foster parents in our state. Their ranks are way too thin, their workload is huge, and it's understandable that gift shopping may fall through the cracks with scarce time and resources.

Foster Wishes attempts to fill in the gap by generating Christmas wish lists from children and foster families across the state, working hand in hand with the Department of Human Services. Foster Wishes distributes the wish lists through businesses, organizations and individuals as a direct gift to the child in custody.

The workload for Foster Wishes has grown significantly over the past couple of years, and the organization currently has just one part time employee - all of the heavy lifting otherwise is doing by an army of volunteers. This is why I've agreed to an offer to join the board of Foster Wishes. Forgive me, but since God has blessed me with the ability to share stories with the community, it is my choice to bring attention to this great community effort.

So how can you help? Let's start with a coffee gathering tonight at Evoke, 103 S Broadway in Edmond. I wish I could be there myself, but I'm traveling with the Urban Land Institute in San Antonio. This is a perfect opportunity to meet the folks with Foster Wishes and learn more about how you can make life better for foster kids even if you can't become a foster parent. The coffee for kids will run 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., and all proceeds from coffee and hot chocolate sales will go to Foster Wishes.

Anyone who brings a toy for the kids will get a free 2015 Keep it Local OK card (make it a great gift). Raffle prizes will be given away, including an OKC Thunder basket, a local t-shirt gift basket, and gift cards to local restaurants.

To learn more about the coffee for kids, visit here.

To learn more about getting a Christmas wish list, visit here.

Steve Lackmeyer

Steve Lackmeyer is a reporter, columnist and author who started his career at The Oklahoman in 1990. Since then, he has won numerous awards for his coverage, which included the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, the city's... Read more ›