KANSAS CITY -- They weren’t wearing big red coats and riding around on a sleigh, but for a few hours on Saturday, members of the Royals organization transformed into “Santa” and took part in the gift-giving season.
Royals Charities and Santa For A Day joined forces with the Housing Authority of Kansas City on Saturday to provide gifts and supplies to nearly 500 children in the Kansas City area aged 5-12. During the three-hour event at the Clymer Center Gym on Vine Street, Royals officials and former Royals pitcher Al Fitzmorris handed out the gifts that Royals Charities bought for every child who was part of the program.
“It was really cool,” Royals vice president of community impact Kyle Vena said. “It was a really unique experience, a culmination of their efforts earlier in the season. And not only getting to provide the gifts, but to actually hand them to a child who was coming with their family members or siblings, their mom and dad, just to have that kind of celebration as we get into the holidays was so awesome to be a part of.”
Santa For A Day is an Illinois-based charity that provides holiday gifts, basic needs and educational supplies for economically disadvantaged children living in urban public housing properties. Last year, through its partnerships, the organization was able to reach more than 5,600 children and delivered nearly 10,000 gifts to children in Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Detroit and Milwaukee.
It has only grown from there. In 2021, Kansas City was added to that list, and in October, the Housing Authority of Kansas City hosted letter-writing events with volunteers who worked with children as they wrote their letters to Santa. With personal information redacted, the letters are uploaded to santaforaday.net, and the organization works with volunteers to fulfill each gift request. Many of the requests include basic needs and educational supplies, in addition to toys.
The partnership with the Housing Authority enables Santa For A Day to target and reach kids in vulnerable local communities, providing a safe method for contacting families and distributing presents, and the partnership with Royals Charities ensured that every participant received a present. Santa For A Day will also host kids for a “Thank you, Santa” letter-writing event in January as well as other creative writing workshops throughout the year.
The gifts were wrapped and shipped to the Housing Authority in preparation for Saturday’s holiday party. Kids and their families came for lunch and cookie decorating as the presents were distributed, and other takeaway items were available for families, like donated clothes and other basic needs.
Even Slugger, the Royals mascot, made an appearance, decked out in a red coat and Santa hat.
“It was a really cool experience,” Vena said. “Al Fitzmorris came, and Slugger was there, and to have kids come in and get the present they’d asked for all wrapped up for them, that was obviously the coolest part just to see them get the present they actually wanted this holiday.”