DALLAS – The global pandemic might have rocked the world, but according to Santa Claus, the elves and reindeer are all safe and sound after journeying to Dallas last Thursday to deliver goodies and gifts for more than 20 preschool children facing homelessness.

The Dallas Mavericks’ annual “Cookies with Santa” event continued on for dozens of kiddos from Vogel Alcove, a non-profit organization on a mission to help young children overcome lasting and traumatic effects of homelessness. The outdoor event took place at Ferris Wheelers Backyard & BBQ in Dallas.

Each year the Mavericks, thanks to the generous support of businesses likes Jefferson Dental & Orthodontics, come together to create a winter wonderland full of holiday surprises and gifts for at-risk children.

“We’ve all been through a lot this year and it’s been harder than ever,” said Jenny Smith, brand manager for Jefferson Dental & Orthodontics, “so we really wanted to give back to our community and uplift everyone around us as much as we can. That’s part of the reason we love our partnership with the Mavs so much. We all work hard to spread that happiness.”

Coronavirus precautions prevented the players from attending this year, but St. Nick was definitely in attendance, and the children were thrilled to spend time with the jolly ol’ man in red. The kids were also surprised and elated to receive a plethora of new gifts like bikes, basketballs and electronics, along with plenty of sugary treats to bring loads of smiles and laughter for everyone in attendance.

The children were greeted at the outdoor event by the Mavs ManiAACs and Champ, along with a special virtual visit by several Mavs players through a recorded video.

“The gifts are perfectly selected for each kiddo,” said Katie Edwards, who serves as the vice president of external affairs for the Dallas Mavericks. “Even though the players couldn’t attend this year, they were here in spirit because we had cutouts of each player and they had a chance to wish the kids a Happy Holidays as well.”

Jessica Carrier serves as Vogel Alcove’s director of early childhood programming and she said the coronavirus has created numerous extra challenges for families enduring homelessness. For starters, it’s been extremely difficult for parents to find jobs and fight for enough hours to create income. She said the other obstacle is keeping everyone safe and getting all the children’s medical and dental needs met.

“On the ride over here, the kids couldn’t even grasp the concept of what they were about to experience,” said Carrier.

“For one, many of them don’t even realize that it’s almost Christmas, so as we traveled here, they were trying to understand that it’s the holiday season and they were asking those questions. This is really the first event for them leading up to Christmas, so they were most excited to find out if Santa would arrive.”

She said this event is extra-special for the youngsters because the parents don’t have the funds or budget to afford even smaller gifts.

“This event is really exciting for the kids and their parents because they got some gifts today and were surprised with an event designed just for them,” Carrier added.

The children played games, made holiday crafts and Santa Claus gave them a glorious reading of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas before the main event, when each child heard their named called out and received personalized, wrapped gifts selected just for them. After a countdown, they all opened their gifts at the same time.

Carrier said she knows it’ll be a touching moment when the children arrive back home to show off all their goodies to their parents.

She said the biggest misconception about homelessness is that it’s just an issue that adults face and wanted to remind others that homelessness impacts real families and children in North Texas every single day.

“Another misconception is that parents aren’t working or trying hard,” Carrier shared. “The majority of the parents we serve do work or they’re in school trying to get their education.”

Each kid also left with a bag full of essential-need items, as well as a dental hygiene kit, courtesy of Jefferson Dental, before boarding buses after the event.

Dinner with Santa is part of the NBA Cares’ Season of Giving and Mavs Care initiative, which features philanthropic experiences throughout the league. The Mavericks have had numerous endeavors throughout the holiday season, including turkey giveaways before Thanksgiving.

“We are just so excited to give the children with Volgel Alcove a happy, happy holiday,” Edwards said. “We are thankful to spread some holiday spirit with these little ones and we did our best to create a day they’ll never forget.”

According to our friends with Vogel Alcove, Dallas has one of the highest child poverty rates in the country for cities over one million people. This means that 30 percent of children in Dallas grow up in poverty. Homeless children are the most invisible and neglected members of our community. But Vogel Alcove is devoted to helping these children cope with the physical, emotional and mental trauma they are experiencing so that they might succeed in life despite their circumstances.

Right now the organization has numerous urgent needs, all listed below, if you would like to help this remarkable organization:

    • Underwear in boys and girls sizes 2T-5T
    • Wipes
    • Hats, mittens, gloves and scarves
    • Heavy winter coats youth sizes in youth sizes 5-7 for boys and girls

You can drop off the items curbside at 1738 Gano Street Dallas, TX 75215 between 9 and 11 AM. You won’t need to leave your vehicle.

If you need to schedule a time to drop off your items or have any questions regarding in-kind donations, please call Jessica Grabowski at 214-368-8686 x233.

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