Even if you’re far away from home and missing family, the campers at AMIkids in Georgetown prove that the Christmas spirit still persists.
Boys at the camp were filled with the holiday spirit Sunday night during their surprise Christmas party, stomping along to carols and filling up on sweet treats.
The party is an annual event for the staff and residents of AMIkids, a nationally-recognized nonprofit organization that provides kids throughout the state an alternative to juvenile prison. The Georgetown campus is an all-boys center, designed to put troubled youth on track to becoming productive and contributing members of society.
“Until we walk in the door, it’s a surprise,” said Jim Christian, board member. “They were eating salads until we came.”
The appetite for salad didn’t last long, since the boys were treated with pizza, brownies, punch and cupcakes. After the meal, everyone sang carols with the help of Holly Cervini, volunteer and contemporary worship leader from All Saints Church in Pawleys Island.
Though it’s supposed to be a surprise, word of the shindig winds down the grapevine before the actual event. It doesn’t stop smiles from spreading, however, and each year the boys look forward to it, said Michael Wright, executive director.
“It’s good for them to understand the purpose of Christmas, and that all the helpers are volunteers,” Wright said.
Some of the kids just enjoyed the cheerful atmosphere in the cozy dining room, complete with candles and red tablecloths. The Sun News is identifying the boys in the program only by their first names because they are juveniles.
“We talked, ate, and just had a generally good time overall,” Lavantrez, 14, said. “That’s my favorite part.”
Others were just looking forward to the most generous part of Christmas – gifts.
“I enjoyed eating – I ate about 6 cupcakes – but my favorite part of the season is getting gifts,” said Charles, 17.
Most of the boys, however, recognized the holiday’s ability to bring loved ones closer together.
“I love spending time with my family,” said Derick, “and just enjoying the time I have on Earth.”
After Cervini recited the story of baby Jesus’ birth, Santa stole the spotlight, bringing each boy four gifts wrapped in festive colors. The gifts, ranging from socks to underwear to shoes, were paid for by Saint Christopher’s Children in Pawleys Island.
“They do a lot of good things in the community,” Christian said, “and we’re very appreciate of it, and of them.”
Pants, shoes and plenty of socks were piled up before Derick, who was thankful to receive things he needs for winter at the facility.
“I’m set for a while – until I go home.”
All the boys were smiling from ear to ear by the time Santa left, and those smiles spread to each volunteer and staff member at the party. Yvette Wijthoff, business manager, said she had seen one boy shaking his legs under the table during dinner, so she asked if he was well.
“He was just so happy,” Wijthoff said. “Nothing had even started yet and he was still so happy.”