Filling Christmas Wishes for Foster Families
This holiday season has been extremely busy for the Thunder and Devon Energy, but in the best possible way.
The two organizations partnered together to help fill Christmas wishes for foster children across Oklahoma and throw a surprise Thunder-themed pizza party for a group home called Spencer’s House.
Working alongside Citizens Caring for Children, an organization that serves as a resource center for foster families to ensure their basic needs are met, employees from Devon and the Thunder filled hundreds of wish lists created by families for Christmas. In an effort to follow COVID-19 precautions, the employees of both organizations received Amazon wish lists and began their online Christmas shopping in late-November. In doing so, they were able to give in a tremendous way.
“Doing what we did with Citizens Caring for Children all virtually, it allowed our employees to be engaged in a way that they haven't been able to do in person,” said Macay Brummal of Devon Energy. “These wishes that we were able to give to foster children and Spencer's House really allowed people to find a connection in the community where maybe they hadn't been able to find it.”
Watch: Filling Christmas Wishes
The scene in North Park Mall where the toys were delivered heavily resembled Santa’s Workshop. Heaps of dolls, books, shoes, bikes and other enticing gifts lined the walls of the room. Each pile of toys and clothes represented a child in Oklahoma who would wake up to gifts on Christmas morning. In a year marked by adversity and hardship, where many foster parents have lost their jobs and were already bracing their children for a light Christmas, knowing that there would be gifts under the tree on Christmas morning was enough to bring them to tears.
“I would be lying if I said I haven't cried a few times,” said Abby Werth, Director of Development at Citizens Caring for Children. “Our foster parents are in tears because they would not have been able to provide this this year, and with the help from the Oklahoma City Thunder and Devon Energy, we can provide that for them.”
“We've partnered with Citizens Caring for Children over the past few years. We love the work that they do in these families and for these kids and we try to offer opportunities that allow special experiences, and this year is especially unique and the needs that are so great,” said Erin Oldfield, the Thunder’s director of community relations.
“We had to do things a little bit different, but at the end of the day, we're going to make sure that all these kids receive awesome presents on Christmas morning.”
In addition to the foster families served by Citizens Caring for Children, Devon and the Thunder kept the holiday spirit rolling with a surprise event for 12 young boys at Spencer’s House, a group home for boys ages 9 to 13 in the care of Department of Human Services. The two organizations caught wind that home was filled with Thunder fans and decided to surprise the house with a Thunder-themed pizza party and a gift bag filled with Thunder swag, including a sweatshirt and a new pair of shoes.
When the boys opened their Christmas gifts, the staff at Spencer’s House could hardly get them to sit down. The boys jumped up and down, yelled with excitement and shouted “thank you” to anyone who would listen. It was almost surreal to know that their favorite basketball team had been thinking of them.
According to Ryan Darling and Neva Hill who both work closely with Spencer’s House and see the 12 boys almost daily, it was a bright spot for the group home in the middle of a rather dim year.
The COVID-19 pandemic limited all face-to-face interactions with important people in the boys lives such as family members, schoolteachers and caseworkers. And during the holiday season when foster children tend to miss their families and loved ones the most, the pandemic has made it extremely difficult for the staff to make those sorts of reunions possible.
“They're really isolated right now and so this event was so special because it reminded them there's people out there that care about them and that are thinking about them,” said Darling. “It really touched my heart that there were so many people working behind the scenes making this such a successful thing for them to have.”
“I think these boys years from now as they look back, one of the highlights I truly believe will be the experience they had this Christmas season, and all that has been provided to them with wonderful folks like Devon and the employees that have gone above and beyond to just be to be interested and be engaged, and the Thunder organization, their community outreach and their desire to play such a vital role,” said Hill.