The Joy of Giving, now in its 26th year, has provided Christmas for thousands and thousands of children over the years. Many would not have Christmas at all if it weren’t for the Joy of Giving. “Not only is the smile of a child worth every second of 26 years, but imagine the relief for parents who get to see their children smile on Christmas Day,” says Joy founder Nicki Davis.
Nicki begins fundraising months before the “big day.” She works with school guidance counselors to help find the neediest of children. Last year, $80,000 was raised for the morning of shopping. In all, 375 families from North Naples, Golden Gate, East Naples and Marco Island, started gathering in front of Wal-Mart at 5 AM waiting for the doors to open. There were more than 1,000 children in those families, who came from Everglades, Tommie Barfield, Manatee, Shadowlawn, Avalon, BigCypress, Naples Park, Estates, Parkside, Mike Davis, Golden Gate, Sabal Palm, Vineyards, Golden Terrace, Poinciana and Parkside. Children from Marco Island Charter Middle School, the Upon a Star Foundation and Social Services referrals, are included as well.
The total amount raised each year is divided by the number of children to be served. Each family is given a specific dollar amount based on the number of children in their family. They arrive at Wal-Mart to shop for toys, bicycles, shoes and clothes. Everything is pre-checked for age appropriateness and to be sure each family gets as close to the dollar amount allocated as possible. The process ensures they’re not way over their allocated dollar amount nor are they underutilizing what is available to them. After shopping, they are given a frozen turkey, courtesy of Island Country Club, as they depart the store.
If you would like to donate or volunteer, you can go to www.joyofgivingchildren.org.
An annual fundraiser, the Ride for Joy Poker Run, will be held Sunday, Nov. 30. Registration begins at 8:30 AM at Porky’s and includes complimentary breakfast. Nicki will lead the motorcycle riders to the Jolley Bridge where she stops and points upward to the sky. “It has special meaning for me,” says Nicki. “It’s my way of acknowledging my dad.”
The Joy of Giving event at Wal-Mart is at 6 AM, Saturday, Dec. 13. “It’s a very rewarding experience when a smiling child says, ‘Thank you’ or ‘Feliz Navidad’ as they leave the store,” says Nicki’s head elf, Misty Sayah.