They Chose Christmas

    “They Chose Christmas,” New Era, Dec. 1994, 38

    Everyday Heroes:

    They Chose Christmas

    They had another offer, but these kids knew just what they wanted.

    “Hey, everyone, the bus just pulled in. They’re here, they’re here!” With a crunching race to the back door of the meetinghouse, 60 anxious teens greet and pair off with 60 equally anxious preschoolers. They are going to a Christmas party—one they’ve looked forward to all year.

    Each December, the youth of Butler 20th Ward in Salt Lake City plan and carry out, with their leaders, a special Christmas activity for three- four- and five-year-olds who attend the Redwood Multipurpose Day Care Center, a partially state-supported facility for underprivileged children. Butler ward has thrown the party for several years, and it is a highlight of the holidays for both the children and the youth.

    It’s love at first sight when the children and the teens pair off as buddies for the evening. Sarah Cowan, a Laurel, says, “I really couldn’t believe the spirit that came with those little kids. The little girl I had was so sweet. I love doing this.”

    The party is full of activity. First comes pizza and root beer. Next, each child gets a turn on Santa’s lap and has a Polaroid snapshot taken. Then it’s off to decorate (and sample) sugar cookies. The children put their own creative touch to a T-shirt they can wear throughout the coming year. And a glue-and-glitter project on a Christmas box help them carry their treasures home. As the children prepare to leave, they open a gift donated by their teen friend and share a few quiet moments before boarding the bus. Several children ask their teen companions to come home with them. Others don’t want to let go of a hand or they keep hugging and hugging.

    “I wouldn’t trade that night for any thing! I know how much it meant to those kids, but I realize it’s improved my life even more,” says Jet Brown, a Laurel.

    One of the priests, Robert Dickson, says, “We were able to give the children a Christmas that they ordinarily would not have. To see their faces makes me feel the warmth of the Spirit at its fullest.”

    Mandy Sommers, a Beehive, adds, “I hope we can do it again. I hope the children felt like they were on top of the world and very special, because they were just that to us.”

    For Nikki Barson, the Christmas party of 1993 was her last year to participate as a young woman. She says, “Participating in this activity is sharing a piece of Christmas. Nothing can replace the feeling of making someone happy, especially over the holidays.”

    The director of the Redwood Multipurpose Day Care Center, Teresa Whiting, and her staff are most appreciative to the youth and leaders of the Butler 20th Ward. Ms. Whiting sent thank-you cards to them with handprints of the children in red fingerpaints.

    The youth of Butler 20th Ward gave their hearts to these youngsters another time this past year. When they were planning the 1994 summer calendar, they were told that they would have to make a budget choice between a three-day river trip and the children’s Christmas activity.

    They took a vote. And guess what? Yep. It was unanimous. They chose Christmas.

    Hey, if you could get smiles like these, you’d jump at the chance, too. No wonder Butler 20th Ward teens like Steven Arveseth (above, with Ashley) and Karyn Peterson (left, with Julia) have started making this activity a regular part of their Christmas. (Photography by Welden Andersen.)