There’s nothing better than seeing a child’s face light up with delight. Now imagine that 677 times over. That’s how many children at the Fox School in Hartford, a public Pre K through 12 school, were treated to a gift, book and a treat at the Kingswood Oxford sponsored Holiday Fair this December 13 and 14, that’s become a holiday tradition. It’s enough to make your heart burst with joy. Fox principal Sloley said, “I am eternally grateful for all the hard work and dedication to our scholars and the work that we do here at MD Fox.”
This annual Holiday Fair began in a small way about six years ago by the now deceased KO parent, Liz Benbrook, who volunteered at Fox through KO’s Middle School service learning partnership and handed out pencils and other small items to the students. After Benbrook passed away, the volunteers honored her memory and opened Liz’s Holiday Store where parents donated gently used items for the students to purchase with their good behavior “Monopoly” money during the holiday season. Not a team to rest on their laurels, last year the KO Parent Association decided to revamp the Holiday store concept with the idea that each child at Fox School, not only those with the most “Monopoly” dollars, could shop the store and receive one brand new gift.
For several weeks prior to the Bazaar, committee member Jen Albensi arranged parent volunteers to spend chilly mornings in the KO parking lot packing their cars with news toys dropped off by parents, faculty and students. The team stored the items in a 500 square foot storage facility donated by Avon Self Storage that barely could contain the bounty. Additionally, Monica Bisgaard, wife of the KO Head of School, faced the early morning crowds on Black Friday to purchase more gifts from the $1,200 dollar donations. What Bisgaard couldn't accomplish on Black Friday, she made another two shopping trips, navigating pallets of toys, Pokemon-like card games,art supplies and puzzles through the narrow aisles of A.C. Moore and Five Below. Bisgaard lauded A.C. Moore who helped discount the items another 25% when the store manager heard about the Fox Holiday Store enterprise. Next year, A.C. Moore has committed to helping with the initiative from the very start. Bisgaard noted that purchasing gifts for the older students proved a bit trickier and concentrated her purchases on lotion, perfume sets, selfie sticks, fun socks and gift cards.
Another special addition to the Holiday Bazaar was the gift of a new book. Books were arranged by grade level, and committee member Meghan Wildstein would ask the student his or her interest and help guide the child to the appropriate choice. Wildstein made sure that each child made a book choice that made each child feel special.
Starting on Monday, December 12th, the parent volunteers trimmed the library at Fox with pinwheels, garland and stars,and organized the unwrapped toys. The next day students lined up - some patiently, some giggling, all excited while awaiting their turn holding their Yankee Candle bags larger than themselves. Albensi arranged a generous donation of 700 shopping bags by Yankee Candle for the students to tote their gifts and candy canes for the Holiday Store.
KO’s P.A. representative, Albanesi said, “ The event went great, and my feet and back are happy that the "daily parking lot duty" and the "big day" are over, but those Fox kids are awesome.” We think the KO parents are, too.