Combine presents, good food, crafts and a photo booth, plus a planetarium, and you’ve got the makings of a very special holiday event for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas’ matches. Held at the Texas Museum of Science and Technology (TxMOST) on Sunday, December 4, over 150 matches turned out for the festive party.
“This is one of our largest gatherings of the year for matches,” said Joe Strychalski, BBBS’ Vice President of Programs. “In addition to the fun, it provides our staff with another opportunity to connect with the matches they’ve helped create, and it allows us to give a little extra help to families in need.”
Some participants wore reindeer antlers, others wore light-up stocking caps, but everyone was in a party mood at the annual Holiday Party. “Each year our matches gather to enjoy food and fun and to get a gift for the holiday. Littles are so grateful to be able to pick out a fun gift, at times not even for themselves but for a member of their family,” said Christina Snell, Match Support Supervisor.
While holiday music played, Bigs and Littles enjoyed games like Connect Four and Uno, created special souvenirs at the ornament and photo booths, toured the museum, and snacked on donuts, fruit treats and pizza. They also visited the toy booth where Littles were able to select their gifts.
“We love doing this,” said David Alben, CEO of U.S. Micro Products. “We love BBBS and we’ve been participating in the Holiday Party for 4 or 5 years. To get to see the look in the kids’ eyes when they’re picking out a present, to see their excitement, that really brings it home for us. One of our company’s goals is giving back to the community and this is a great opportunity to be involved.”
The event helps everyone get in the holiday spirit, but it also provides some great one-to-one time for Bigs and Littles. “So many of the activities here, whether crafts, the planetarium or the museum, provide an opportunity for discussion and bonding between Bigs and Littles,” said Kimberly Blair of RSM. “I enjoy seeing Bigs encouraging Littles who might be shy or a little scared. To see Bigs reminding their Littles that this event is for and about them, that is really great.”
Matches agreed that the chance to spend some quality time together was important. “We made ornaments so that we could remember our first Holiday Party together,” said Big Sister Kate. Her Little Sister Tiani agreed that she liked making crafts, but quickly added, “I enjoyed all of it!”
Some of the older Littles such as Elizabeth, who was attending her 4th or 5th Holiday Party, teased that their favorite part was the gift booth. But, she said, “I have a lot of friends in this program so I really enjoy getting to see them here.”
Littles Michaela and Lauren compared the gathering to a reunion of family and friends. Both said they enjoyed the good food and games, and this year really appreciated the fact that the party was held at a museum.
Being at the museum also added a learning element to the festivities. That was not the only educational component of the party however, as Gregory Harrington from the National Society of Black Engineers provided hands-on experiments for the kids to try.
“This party is in perfect alignment with what we do,” Gregory explained. “We’ve purchased toys for the event and that is important, but we also want to expose these kids to what it might be like to be an engineer. The kids may say, ‘Hey, if that guy can become an engineer, maybe I can, too.’”
In one experiment, matches used marshmallows and toothpicks to build a bridge and to see how many cars they could stack on it before it broke. A second experiment illustrated electric circuitry using LEDs and playdough.
This year’s annual Holiday Party provided a lot of fun, entertainment, and companionship for Bigs and Littles alike.
A special thank you to the major sponsors who made this event possible: ADP; AECOM ; Alpha Phi Alpha; General Motors; MyEventIsTheBomb; National Society of Black Engineers; O’Connell Robertson; RSM; RWL Markets Inc.; South Austin Rotary; Texas Museum of Science and Technology; and U.S. Micro Products.
See our Flickr album of event photos here
See MyEventIsTheBomb photo booth photos here