TAMPA, Fla. - When Sarah Weaver decided to start a movement to buy Christmas presents for foster children, she had no idea how big the need was. She gathered a group of foster moms to help with the idea of helping foster children have a merry Christmas.
Their program, Christmas For Fosters, started with 45 kids in the program. according to founder Sarah Weaver.
"Now we're serving over 475 kids each year," Weaver said.
Weaver started the group in 2016, when she and her husband realized the financial difficulty that foster parents were having to buy Christmas gifts.
"We just realized what a burden it might become for foster parents to be able to provide for their own children and also, in addition, their foster kids. So we just saw a need and we wanted to meet that need," Weaver said.
Foster parents receive a small stipend from the state of Florida, but not enough money to buy Christmas gifts for the children.
"It doesn't really carry on to covering the extras, like birthdays, Christmas and other types of celebrations. The state doesn't help with that. It's all on the foster families to provide that," explained Weaver.
Through the program, kids create a wishlist of items and participants go on to the website and select a child to go shopping for.
"And seeing the smile on their faces and the joy in their eyes just makes it all worth it for every hour spent shopping or organizing. And then every dollar spent that people donate, it is 100% worth," said Weaver.
Foster parent Amanda Katzer is thankful for this program.
"It helps the kids and it helps the foster parents. It brings joy and comfort to us knowing that somewhere out in the community, someone cares for us and wants to support us and lift us up," Katzer said.
Foster parent Heather Smetana says it's a big help in other ways too.
"It also gives us the financial flexibility to be able to take them on other trips and experiences throughout the year than having to save just for Christmas," Smetana explained.
Sarah says if you don't have time to shop, just go on the website and make a donation and they will do it for you. If you need more information visit www.christmasforfosters.com.