Since 2016, Christina Bodily and her family have saved Christmas for as many Idaho foster kids as they can. That means working with nonprofit organizations like Fostering Christmas to discover the items on the kids’ wish lists. Then, they plan a shopping trip to snag the presents. Christina creates a Word document of the wish lists her family takes on and rallies all of the troops. This includes her parents, her two siblings, her husband, and her four kids!
“Occasionally, when the stars align, we try to all go shopping together,” she says. “Everyone has a list, and they’re responsible for signing off all of the kids on their list. When we get [to the store], the poor people at Walmart or wherever look at us like, ‘Oh man, here they come!’”
Christina’s family has saved Christmas for dozens of foster kids by making sure they have something to cherish under the tree. The Bodilys and the other families who support Fostering Christmas brighten the holidays for these kids. They’ve entered Idaho’s foster care system after Thanksgiving and would go without a Christmas present otherwise. When Christina learned about that situation, she made a commitment. Not only would her family help, but they’d also claim the kids no one else would.
“One of our favorite things to do with Fostering Christmas … is to take all the last-minute kids who come in and also all the ‘leftovers,’” she says. “A lot of times, people think it’s the most fun to go buy little kids’ toys — Barbies, Hot Wheels, and that stuff. It’s not as much fun to go buy a gift card or try and go into GameStop to get video games.”
That means teenagers are often left behind. But Christina isn’t afraid to brave GameStop if that’s what it takes to make a foster kid smile. In fact, she says it’s easier than you think.
“I just look at [the workers] and say, ‘I have no idea what I'm doing here. I need you to tell me the top 3 coolest games for a 14-year-old boy.’ And they’re like, ‘Bam, bam, bam!’” she laughs.
Not all of the teens Christina helps have video games on their wish lists. Many ask for basic necessities they’ll need when they “age out” of the system. These items include clothing, deodorant, and tampons.
“The teens who ask for underwear and socks, those are the ones who just break my heart. Those are things you shouldn’t have to ask for on Christmas,” Christina says. One particular almost-18 year old stands out in her memory. “He just wanted a gas gift card and a food gift card to get gas and groceries. And I thought, ‘In that position, 17 years old with no parents or backup support, about to be thrown out into the world — that would be terrifying!’ So, we tried to make sure he had a good base to start from and hopefully knew somebody cared about him.”
Christina has always been moved by Christmas-related charities like Fostering Christmas and Toys for Tots because of her own holiday memories. Her family didn’t have much money, but her mom still went above and beyond to create an “idyllic” celebration. It was “everything a kid could dream of for Christmas, and then some.” There were beautiful gifts under the tree, cookies for Santa, and glittering footprints on the stairs to mark his path. The contrast between what she had and what Idaho’s foster kids expect is stark to her.
“Right here in our community, there are kids in this situation through no fault of their own because of decisions others have made. These are not idyllic circumstances. We like to make sure they know somebody cares about them and somebody loves them. Even if we don't know them,” Christina says.
Giving back was also a big part of Christina’s childhood. When she was a kid, her parents would find a family in need each Christmas and anonymously leave presents on their porch.
“As a kid, the most exciting thing in the world is to drop off presents at someone’s house, ring the doorbell, and run away,” she says. “That’s a fantastic memory. We don’t do the doorbell ditch anymore. But Ed and I are still trying to continue that family tradition my parents created with our kids.”
Christina’s family goes above and beyond to support Fostering Christmas. However, even taking on the holiday shopping for one foster kid can be life-changing — and it’s not too late! To learn more about Fostering Christmas and claim a wish list for this Christmas, click here.
You can help these kids in a bigger way if you can. The Idaho Department of Health & Welfare is badly in need of foster parents. Click here to learn more about the process and how to apply.