At the home of Jake and Sparky Kennedy, Christmas was traditional and joyous. The Kennedy children’s stockings were hung by the chimney with care – and stuffed. The tree was ringed with gifts and toys – more toys than the children could possible play with, more gifts than they could use, many of which would end up in a closet or in the back of the garage.
While the house was filled with joy (and toys), Jake and Sparky felt that something was missing: how to make sure their kids could experience not only the joy of receiving gifts, but the Spirit of Christmas: kindness, goodwill, sharing with others. As Jake put it, “Showing the kids that it wasn’t just all about them”.
In 1989, a new family tradition came into being. With friends, co-workers, and clients of Kennedy Brothers Physical Therapy volunteering their time and donating gifts and money, Christmas in the City was born. That first year, 165 mothers and children from Boston homeless shelters were guests at a party at Boston City Hall, complete with festive decorations, games, a holiday meal and a gift for each child that the child had asked Santa to deliver.
Christmas in the City, growing over the years
Each year, since that first party at Boston City Hall, Christmas in the City has expanded. Today, the party – a truly magical experience – hosts thousands of children (and their parents) from Boston-area homeless shelters. The day after the party, we run Monday Mania, at which toys and gifts are distributed to thousands of families who aren’t homeless, but live on the edge of poverty.
It’s Christmas in the City throughout the year.
Christmas in the City runs programs throughout the year. At Thanksgiving, we distribute food to families in need. Our Adopt-a-Family program, initiated in 1995, provides a range of services to families transitioning from a shelter to their own home. And in 2016, we held our first job fair.
Throughout, Christmas in the City has never lost sight of its core value, the spirit of the season: kindness, goodwill and caring for our neighbors.
And we do 100% of everything with volunteers, including many of the once-homeless children who attended a party and come back to CITC as volunteers. Proudly, our roster of volunteers – 1000+ strong – also includes the Kennedy children, whose 1988 Christmas inspired Jake and Sparky to start Christmas in the City.