December 19, 2008

The spirit of the holidays in present in our region

By Pablo Jaime Sáinz

In these tough economic times, it might seem like every family has to look for itself and try to make ends meet for oneself.

But sharing what we do have during this difficult period with those less fortunate only makes the gesture even more significant.

Latinos in the South Bay are always willing to share: Either with a can of tuna or up to a brand new bike for needy children.

Santa Claus visited Sunset Elementary School where the San Ysidro Women’s Club handed out more than 1,000 teddy bears on Dec. 9th, to some of the neediest children in this border community.

The San Ysidro Women’s Club shared the holiday spirit with the children of the San Ysidro School District on December 8th, when the club handed out more than 1,000 teddy bears during an event at Sunset Elementary School’s cafeteria. Santa Claus was present at the Winter Bazaar, which included food sale, raffles, and musical acts by nearby Ocean View Hills School students.

The Teddy Bear Drive is a tradition that the San Ysidro Women’s Club has had for eight years. For many children in San Ysidro, that teddy bear might be the only toy they receive during this holiday season.

Also at the San Ysidro School District, there has been a Holiday Food Basket Drive, where students and staff share their blessings with the less fortunate in the community. For eight years this drive has been a success, and each year 10 needy families from each of the district’s seven schools receive a food basket to celebrate the holidays. The baskets include canned goods, cereal, beans, and other delicious items that will help these families during these tough times.

The good times in San Ysidro began since a few days before Thanksgiving, when Chargers team members Steve Gregory and Jacques Cesaire, with help from the local Lucky super market, handed out turkeys and bags of food to more than 40 needy families in the area.

Gregory, who has a fitness program for Sunset Elementary in San Ysidro, visited again the school on December 16, this time to deliver a brand-new bike and helmet to each third grader at Sunset. For many of those children, this will be their very first bike, so the gift is like a rite of passage for many of them.

At another event on December 17, County Supervisor Greg Cox, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and Sheriff Bill Kolender, participated in the annual Bikes for Tykes giveaway. The event was organized by the Citizen’s Advisory Committee of the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility.

Bikes refurbished by inmates at the facility, and safety helmets, will be given to about 100 deserving children.

Epic Medics, a nonprofit organization of paramedics, provided safety helmets for the children. Ye Olde Bike Shop, a San Diego store, provided some discounted bikes for the program.

The smile on the faces of 100 excited children, ages 5 to 16, receiving their bikes is the perfect image to capture the holiday season in our region.

But if many children in the South Bay have it tough, there are thousands more in our neighboring city of Tijuana that each day struggle to eat just to survive. With the recent storms affecting some of the poorest colonias, the Red Cross and other local social services agencies sure need a helping hand to lend to these needy families, many of them currently staying at shelters after losing everything to the storms.

If you want to permanently help the neediest children in Tijuana this season, you can make a donation to the traditional Baja Duty Free fundraiser for the Hospital Infantil de las Californias (Tijuana’s Children’s Hospital).

The goal of this year’s drive, which goes on until January 8, is to raise more than $15,000, which is what was raised last year.

“We feel very excited to raise funds again for this institution that serves the children of Baja California, children whose parents don’t have the resources to pay for the high medical costs required for their conditions,” said Irene Rojas, marketing manager at Baja Duty Free, located in San Ysidro.

Donations for this noble cause can be made at any of the three Baja Duty Free stores in San Ysidro.

So when you are having dinner on Christmas Eve with your family, please give thanks for your blessings and don’t forget that there are many needy families out there that might need a helping hand.

Merry Christmas! ¡Feliz Navidad!

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