Jauwana Smith hoisted her 11-month-old daughter, Jazzmari, in her arms as she made her way through a maze of games, princesses and robots to get to a bag of holiday gifts.
The pair came to Harborview Medical Center’s 27th annual Children’s Holiday Party Saturday with Smith’s sister, two nieces, two nephews, a godson and a friend’s daughter to enjoy a tradition that dates to Smith’s childhood.
“When we came, I got Candy Land and my sister got Trouble and we played and played and played” the board games, said Smith, 30.
This year, the hospital sent out 400 invitations to patients of its pediatric clinic, though plenty of former patients and neighbors of the hospital show up as well. The hospital estimated that as many as 700 kids came to the Yesler Community Center for holiday activities and gift bags.
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“It’s our way of giving back to the community,” said Eileen Whalen, Harborview’s executive director.
The gifts were provided by Toys For Kids, a charity established by Seattle Mariners broadcasters Rick Rizzs and Dave Henderson, which contributed $30,000 to purchase toys from Toys R Us. Rizzs, who signed autographs with Henderson at the event, said it was the 18th year Toys For Kids has given away gifts to families at the Harborview party.
“It makes you feel so good that Santa is going to show up for all these kids,” Rizzs said. “Otherwise, a lot of these kids wouldn’t get a toy.”
And for many families, the Harborview party has become a family tradition. Manuela Gallegos first brought her family to the party 14 years ago, shortly after giving birth to twins. The gifts from the party were the only ones her children got that year.
“For me, it was like a little miracle,” Gallegos said through an interpreter provided by Harborview. “I don’t know how to express it, but it was the best moment in my life.”
Gallegos has come to the party every year since. And now she has five children. Gallegos and her husband are able to provide presents for her children now. But she said that she continues to bring them to the party to “teach them that faith exists, that there are good people.”
Jay Greene: 206-464-2231 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: iamjaygreene