Since 1982 Christmas 4 Kids has brightened the holiday season for countless Middle Tennessee kids and adults who look forward each year to volunteering for the non-profit organization.
With COVID-19 precautions wreaking havoc on nearly every large-scale event in the country since March, the organization’s board of directors didn’t think the event that pairs a volunteer with a child in need for a night of shopping would be possible.
“We had initially said we’ll have to cancel the event,” said Christmas 4 Kids Board President Linda O’Connell. “We just couldn’t figure out a way to make it work.”
For two nights in December hundreds flock to Hendersonville’s Walmart – first to tour the buses of country music’s biggest names on Monday night, and then to see the faces of 400 Midstate children light up as they peruse the store’s aisles on Tuesday night.
The shopping event is made possible by several fundraisers throughout the year that didn’t happen due to COVID-19 restrictions on large gatherings, O’Connell noted. That includes the biggest fundraiser, a concert held each year in November at the Ryman Auditorium.
When the non-profit announced on its Facebook page in mid-September the concert, bus tour and shopping events would be cancelled, the reaction was one of sadness, but understanding considering the circumstances.
Enter two local charities, the Hendersonville Parks Department, and a popular country music artist.
O’Connell says she immediately heard from several who wanted to still make the event possible, including Taylor Rowe whose non-profit Live Love Nashville has raised thousands of dollars for those in need
In just a few days, Live Love Nashville’s Facebook page has raised more than $7,000 toward its goal of $50,000.
“It’s been phenomenal so far,” said O’Connell.
HolidayFest, a non-profit organization that promotes and markets local charity events, has also stepped up by hosting “When Pigs Fly,” a barbecue dinner and bourbon tasting event featuring Rockland Road and surprise musical guests. Catered by Martin’s BBQ, the event will take place on Nov. 7 behind Ultimate Party Super Store at 246 West Main Street.
The event will be the first in a series of Hendersonville Hometown Jam music events for 2020.
The Hometown Jam was started in 2019 by the Hendersonville Parks Department, and this year will feature multiple nights that benefit different charities throughout the year.
Country music artist Phil Vassar will also lend his talents by hosting Phil Vassar & Friends for an at-
home virtual concert starting at 7 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 23.
"Our community has rallied to help us to provide a wonderful Christmas for 400 kids,” saidO’Connell. “Live Love Nashville, the Parks Department, the Hendersonville Hometown Jam and HolidayFest have joined us to create an unbeatable team that cannot be stopped. We hate that we won't be able to enjoy the children in person, but we will ensure they have a great Christmas.”
Due to current social distancing restrictions, this year’s shopping event will be different, O’Connell noted.
Each child will still receive the $150 shopping spree, but the kids will provide “wish lists” to volunteers who will personally shop for them at the Hendersonville Walmart on Dec. 7 and 8. The Christmas gifts will then be delivered to the children at their appropriate schools on Dec. 15.
O’Connell says the children are chosen by the school’s guidance counselors on a need-based basis.
She believes that for many that need is greater now than ever.
“There’s going to be more families that need assistance this year than in previous years,” O’Connell added. “So, we hated to not have the event.”
For more information about donating to or volunteering for Christmas 4 Kids as well as upcoming fundraising events, go to www.christmas4kids.org.