Making Christmas Morning Special
Brian and Stephanie Deeds are Boise natives who have lived in the community their whole lives. They have both been participating in Fostering Christmas for several years now, and they show no signs of slowing down.
They first came across the organization when they lived in the same neighborhood as Newsletter Pro’s CEO, Shaun Buck. Shaun started Fostering Christmas in 2014. That first year, it was just him, but he soon requested help to provide gifts for more foster children. Brian and Stephanie learned the charity existed when Shaun asked for donations on the neighborhood Facebook page.
Brian admits that he and Stephanie didn’t know much about the program. They had one child at the time, and they couldn’t help but think of him. “We decided we wanted to do something like that, so we thought, ‘Let’s pick a couple of names,’” he says.
“A couple of names” didn’t last long, Brian explains. “The first year, we took 2 names, but they had a couple of kids left, so we said, ‘Give us 2 more.’ The next year, I said, ‘Give us 4,’ but one of our neighbors said, ‘Give us 5,’” he laughs. “You’re not going to outdo me, so I said give me 6! Last year, we started with 6 names. But then, more names dropped, and we picked another few. We covered somewhere between 8–10 kids last year.”
As children enter the foster care system, their names are added to the list until very close to Christmas Day. “When you see names drop on the list on Dec. 16 or 17, they’re going into foster care right before Christmas," Brian explains. "I can’t imagine what that situation must be like.”
“When you stop and think about the holidays,” he says, “what is it more about than kids? We all love the holidays, but that love started as a child. And to have a traumatizing event during that time of year can make it really difficult for future Christmases.”
So, Brian and Stephanie tend to pick more names as the season progresses. Brian says, “My wife will come home and say ‘We need to go shopping.’ And I’ll say, ‘You picked up more names, didn’t you?’” It’s not just Stephanie; Brian remembers 2 siblings who were once on the list together. “I couldn’t take one and not the other!”
Though Brian primarily volunteers for altruistic reasons, he also admits that it’s a lot of fun. He especially appreciates that volunteers are given a specific wish list the child writes, not just age and gender. “Sometimes it’s like a scavenger hunt,” he says. “You have to figure out what they’re actually looking for, find it, and then pick it out.”
But a child’s Christmas wishes aren’t always easy to fulfill. He remembers one year when a little girl wanted a toy corgi set that was the hot gift of the season. “You just couldn’t get them,” Brian says, “except maybe on eBay for $500.” Feeling bad that they couldn’t fulfill the child’s wish, they purchased additional gifts to help ease the disappointment. “We went down to the store and doubled down,” he says.
Participating in Fostering Christmas has helped Brian and Stephanie teach their 2 sons about the importance of giving. They’re 3 and 7, and while the younger child doesn’t yet understand, the oldest is beginning to. “I know what a blessing it is to be in the position we’re in,” Brian says. “We’re secure financially, and our kids have never had to go without.” He continues, “It’s hard for them to wrap their heads around. But as they get older, we ask them to help us pick something out.”
He notes that while younger kids tend to get most of the attention, Fostering Christmas also buys presents for teenagers. Their needs are just as important. “Who doesn’t want to buy for a 3-, 4-, or 5-year-old?” he says. “But there are also 15-, 16-, and 17-year-olds going through the same thing. They’re maybe not as shielded; they know what’s going on around them. And they have the same sort of needs.”
Brian remembers one year in particular when a teenager requested an Abercrombie jacket. “That was an ask,” he laughs, but then he gets serious. “We walked out of the store with two jackets, and we sent them both. I certainly hope that when that kid got not only the one jacket he wanted but 2, it made him feel special and brought some joy to his day.”
Why does Brian keep helping year after year? “I get emotional thinking about it,” he says. “It tugs at our hearts. And to have kids ourselves, knowing the impact you can have is our call to action. You don’t know what the kid looks like or what their background is. But to buy a Christmas gift for a unique child who has a specific request is special.”
When asked why other community members should get involved, Brian declares, “It’s infectious! And,” he continues, “whether you’re like me and want to one-up yourself every year or just do one shopping list, I think you’ll find yourself wanting to do it every year.”
“The more people who help,” Brian explains, “the more Fostering Christmas can expand their reach and go into other counties that also have a need. The need has no boundaries — and this organization doesn’t, either, if enough people are willing to support it.”
To get involved yourself, view a list of children’s wish lists on the sign-up sheet. On Christmas morning, a foster child will be glad you did.