Locals visited the Burbank Community YMCA Social Impact Center on Friday, Dec. 10 for a holiday Ready to Wrap gift donation event.
During the two-hour gathering, guests brought their own gifts, which they wrapped on site in preparation to give away to foster care youth. The attendees also socialized, ate pastries and drank refreshments while listening to songs played by DJ and music producer, DJ Kai.
The event was led by the Burbank Community YMCA Director of Marketing & Social Responsibility, Rob Rodriguez. Rodriguez grew up in the foster care system and based Ready to Wrap on experiences of attending the Wrap to Rap holiday celebration in their home state of New York. This ceremony included celebrity appearances, guest performances for children, and attendees wrapping holiday presents. Although Burbank is home to numerous organizations with a strong philanthropic mission, Rodriguez wanted to expand the communities served by local charities and bring a focus to the foster care system this year.
“When I got here and I realized that there was no heavy foster care presence in Burbank, I [thought], we have to do something,” Rodriguez said. “I know there are a lot of nonprofits in the area that do other toy drives, but none that I was aware of were driven directly to the foster care system.”
The YMCA teamed up with Olive Crest, an organization that provides safe housing for at-risk youth and families, to assign the gifts to families needing assistance with securing gifts for their foster children. A couple hundred gifts were collected at the festivities, all of which were gender neutral items appropriate for a wide age range of recipients. This was prioritized to ensure that as many foster children as possible would be able to receive the wrapped presents.
Kayden Grace Swan, a young actress from the Nickelodeon series The Astronauts, attended the event, as did Khloe Thompson, a 14-year-old entrepreneur and philanthropist. Thompson brought a board game to wrap and expressed her joy in giving back to foster youth through her donation.
“I think it’s really awesome because it’s giving someone a Christmas present this year,” Thompson said of Ready to Wrap. “Everyone deserves something for Christmas, so I’m really happy to be a part of this.”
Burbank Community YMCA COO Bryan Snodgrass contributed to Rodriguez’ vision for the gathering and likewise attended Ready to Wrap. He was pleased to see how wrapping gifts for foster youth made participants better understand the value of giving to those in need during the holidays.
“What’s unique about this toy drive is that it’s specific for a certain group of kids, unlike some toy drives that seem open-ended to all kids,” Snodgrass said. “This is really geared towards foster youth, and…what I love about this is it brings us all together to remember what’s important. For these youth out there that don’t have families, this is the tiniest bit that we can do to make it better for them this year.”
Representatives of Olive Crest picked up all of the wrapped gifts after the event ended on Friday, which they will distribute to foster children for Christmas from their list of underprivileged families. Rodriguez explained that many foster children may experience being surrounded by their foster parents’ biological families during Christmas, resulting in them receiving less presents than blood relatives of their foster parents. The heavy amount of donations from guests of the event means that some of these foster children will be able to experience a more cheerful Christmas morning. This, Rodriguez says, is the most satisfying element for them and the contributors of Ready to Wrap.
“[The response] was so overwhelming in a great way,” Rodriguez said. “There are people out there who truly do care for this cause…It’s just rewarding because I know a kid in the [foster care] system is going to open a gift on Christmas. To know that we were part of it, helps me, makes me smile, and makes me happy.”