The gift-giving season can be stressful and when you have 807 youth and families to "shop" for, you start early.
At Cunningham, this process starts in October with the filling out of wish lists. Cason*, a student from CIRCLE Academy, our therapeutic day school, completed his wish list with the help of Ms. Kinnett. Listed were any shirt, socks, fidget toys, string and coloring materials.
Colleen, our Event and Volunteer Specialist, coordinates the Christmas gift process and matches wish lists with our amazing donors. She sent Cason’s list to Arden, who became a Cunningham supporter during the pandemic and says it is "fun and a delight to be part of helping the kids at Cunningham feel special."
"Arden is wonderful," Colleen said. "She always thinks about the little details and enjoys the small things that brings our kids joy, peace and happiness. So, it wasn’t a surprise when she followed up asking for more information about the "string" on Cason’s wish list."
So Colleen reached out to Ms. Kinnett, who explained things.
"Cason collects string," she said. "He will pick string off people’s clothes, off the floor or off the ground at recess. He then places the string into a plastic baggie that goes into his pocket. When he is feeling stressed, overwhelmed or dysregulated, he will play with the string in his pocket as a way to self-soothe."
She went on to say that Cason likes different textures and string or yarn samples, the length of a forearm, would be perfect.
"String is really the best gift for him," Ms. Kinnett said. "He can get more aggressive at times and fidget toys can be thrown or cause harm, but the string really works well."
When Arden dropped off Cason’s Christmas gifts, we were blown away by what she had put together. It was a small rubber tub marked "Cason’s Library of String" and filled with a variety of string and yarn of all different textures and colors. She included balls of string and yarn but had taken the extra step to cut some pieces, the size of a forearm, so Cason could keep them in his pocket.
Arden really sees, listens and loves our Cunningham youth all year long and with this project, she made certain Cason would feel that love 10-fold.
"The modesty of his wish list; just finding joy in small things," Arden said, "that touched me and was such a good example we should all follow. It was a creative request and inspiring to me; that even in difficult circumstances, kids find what helps them. This gift is an example of how innocent and easy it is to do something meaningful. I felt privileged to work on it and be the person to help fulfill his wish. It seemed like a small request, but it WASN'T SMALL to him. It was one of his top three things he wished for on his Christmas list. It was very important to him if he is asking for it for Christmas. If each piece of string was a chance to make him happy, I wanted to honor that."
No matter how big or how small a gift, you, too, help honor the wishes of Cunningham youth and families.
To be acknowledged in the 2022 tax year, please make your gift by 11:59 p.m. CST on Saturday, December 31st.
*name has been changed to protect privacy