The first holiday event, called "The Christmas You Missed," is forgoing no detail to foster holiday cheer.
For the festive occasion, the Armed Services YMCA will be decorated with fresh Christmas trees and catered with a holiday-themed breakfast complete with Starbucks Christmas-blend coffee "“ usually offered exclusively during the winter months "“ served in its signature red cups.
"We want to re-create every aspect of Christmas," said Brittany Catton, director of development and public relations for the ASYMCA. "There will even be newspapers and magazines [dated December 25, 2006]."
In a special ceremony the ASYMCA will recognize the babies born during their family members' deployment, and everyone to attend the holiday party will receive a present from Santa. Throughout the morning, families will be able to take pictures with Santa and enjoy a serenade of Christmas carols and other holiday music. Also, both adults and children can take part in spirited holiday football games or watch classic children's movies.
Todd Little, the event's creator and organizer, describes himself as one of many volunteers "who saw the need and volunteered [his or her] time," after hearing of a military deployment from the San Diego harbor announced on the news.
Little compared his past Christmas vacation, spent in Boston "with my family, Christmas music "¦ in my pajamas," to that of the deployed soldiers, who "were in full fatigues [and] full body armor "“ on duty."
Little, formerly unaffiliated with the ASYMCA, responded to this apparent disparity by partnering with the organization under the rationale that the ASYMCA mantra, ""˜serving those who serve' often means serving those who are left behind," he said.
To Little, "The Christmas You Missed" would aptly answer this call to arms by generating awareness for the families separated at lengths by deployment.
Donating free air time to support this sentiment, KSON will broadcast live from the ASYMCA the day of the event, where they will recruit supportive San Diego listeners to share in the belated holiday spirit by donating new children's toys. Leading up to the event, the ASYMCA is also seeking donations, ranging from $5 to $10 gift cards to spa items specifically for mothers, in addition to toys.
To aid local military families, the ASYMCA offers counseling sessions, "Mom and Tots" cooking and crafts classes and free child care, thus benefiting over 5,000 junior-enlisted soldiers every month.
"We see how much deployment affects a family"¦ Half our office members are social workers, [and] they average 70 home visits a month with in-home counseling and support groups for children," Catton added.
The ASYMCA has also provided over 1,130 military children with two new toys and their families with $50 commissary cards through last December's 20th annual Holiday Toy Program. Other annual programs include "Adopt a Family," through which San Diego companies may confidentially offer financial aid to military families.
Those interested in donating new toys or gift cards to help San Diego's junior-enlisted and their families celebrate Christmas in June can contact the ASYMCA Murphy Canyon Headquarters at (858) 751-5755, ext.103.
The ASYMCA is located on 3293 Santo Road in San Diego. Attendance for the "Christmas You Missed" event, which will take place from 6 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. and from 8:30 a.m. to 11 a.m., is first-come, first-served for the first 500 people to RSVP.
The event is open to officers, the junior-enlisted deployed during the 2006 holiday season and their immediate family members, all of whom may RSVP at www.militaryymca.org.