This New York Kiwanis club ensures kids get a proper holiday celebration.
By Dee Kraft
The Kiwanis Club of Central Adirondacks
Each year the Kiwanis Club of the Central Adirondacks, New York, U.S., collects gifts and toys and distributes them to families in Hamilton County — the least populated and poorest county in the state. Located in the middle of the six-million-acre Adirondack Park in northern New York, the club’s program also provides books, mittens, hats, scarves, theater tickets and food.
Another holiday highlight of the program each year is the Kiwanis Free Holiday Movie for Kids, which is held every year at the Strand Theater in Old Forge. In 2021, more than 70 people enjoyed free popcorn and soft drinks while watching “Clifford, The Big Red Dog.”
In all, the club distributed enough items in 2021 to reach more than 150 families and nearly 300 kids. Partnerships are a major reason for the program’s success.
For example, the Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program provided gifts, which were appropriate for children of all ages. The scarves, hats and mittens were provided by the Old Forge Ladies Auxiliary, as well as volunteers from Big Moose. The books were donated by Gary and Justin VanRiper, authors of the best-selling children’s book series “The Adirondack Kids.”
In addition, the Strand Theatre offered discounted movie tickets and Old Forge Department Store donated wrapping materials. The employees of the Enchanted Forest/Water Safari, Water’s Edge Inn & Conference Center and the Old Forge Camping Resort did an internal gift drive.
Kids and families aren’t the only ones who get an extra bit of holiday cheer from the program, explains Carmen Mastroianni, president of the Central Adirondacks Kiwanis Club.
“Our Christmas for Kids program is the most rewarding and heartwarming activity our members have ever experienced,” Mastroianni says.