By ERIKA FISHER
On Dec. 8, alumni and friends of the Rising Stars Youth Leadership Program participated in the sixth annual Buddy Program holiday shopping with children of the Japanese Speaking Parents Association of Children with Challenges at the Los Cerritos Shopping Center.
Each year, pairs or groups of buddies are formed to have a fun-filled day of holiday festivities.
Each JSPACC child received a wish list from members of their families of what they would like for Christmas. After becoming acquainted and discussing with each child’s parents regarding any particular needs the child has, the buddies and children went on their way to beat the crowds for the best gifts.
The buddies helped the children locate the items, count their change, stay within budget, and keep track of time while the children picked out what their loved ones wished for.
The children had an enjoyable time getting to hang out and chat with people outside of their daily interactions and having a taste of independence while being away from their parents. When everything had been checked off of the list, the groups headed back to the meeting point to wrap the gifts.
The holiday shopping experience gives the buddies a chance to have a hand in creating great memories for the families of the children that they otherwise wouldn’t get the chance to have.
Through the buddies’ participation in the event, the children are allowed to show their families just how much they love them in a way they normally wouldn’t get to do. Before the conclusion of the event, the group enjoyed each other’s company over lunch and took group photos to commemorate the day. The joy of the children was evident through their laughter and big smiles.
Comments from the buddies included:
“I really like this event. I think it’s great that the kids get a chance to pick out gifts for their parents … I would love to do it again next year.”
“I had [my buddy] navigate where to go using a map and asked him what he likes, what was interesting, etc.”
Some other events the Buddy Program organizes throughout the year include participating in the Rising Stars Miniature Golf Tournament in March and pumpkin carving in October. Both the children and buddies look forward to these events.
“It is very rewarding to see the children mature and develop as we see them intermittently throughout the year,” said a Rising Stars spokesperson. “We hope to be able to continue to have these events for many years to come.”
Photos by Yoko Isozaki