Adopt a Panther was started three years ago with a dream and a vision to bring hope to families during the holiday season. The first year we scrambled. Families in desperation to have a Christmas for their children came forth to counselors and interventions asking for assistance. We contacted the few families that were part of our community team and provided Christmas gifts to 6 families. This year we are blown away by the growth that we have seen. Adopt a Panther 2015 serviced 78 families which came out to almost 300 children. We had over 70 volunteers that consisted of community members as well as Paschal families, staff, and even students. We serviced not only Paschal families but also pyramid families in McLean Middle, Daggett Middle, Daggett Elementary, De Zavala Elementary, Westcliff Elementary, and Alice Contreras Elementary. We are overwhelmed by the response we received from our community this year. As we continued to recruit for families to service we worried that we would not have enough volunteers to take on these families. However, towards the end of recruitment we had more volunteers than we did families! With each gift that we received we were reminded of the love and compassion this community has for one another; the dedication that we have for taking care of our own. As we labeled each gifts with the child’s name we were overwhelmed with what each gift meant. It wasn’t just a gift. It was love and hope extended from one person to the other.
The sweetest moments came to us with an element we had added in an effort to efficiently distribute gifts to families: a Christmas party! We generated invitations and distributed them to all the families. In an effort to maintain confidentiality we gave families their anonymous profile names. Even a small detail like this became special as students giggled and voiced that it was their favorite reindeer or their favorite Christmas thing. As they entered we sang carols led by Santa and they watched a Christmas movie as they waited for their name to be called. Once called, they entered a room with cookies, punch, and Santa pictures. Every detail made it special. Children who were late in middle school excitedly showed their Polaroid with Santa because they had never taken a picture with him. Mothers joyfully talked about putting those pictures in scrap books to keep them as little memoirs. Children snacked on cookies and punch while laughing and playing with their siblings, and they came up to pick up their gifts with faces filled with joy and excitement. Parents would tear-up at the sight of gifts that a stranger would so carefully and lovingly pick out and wrap for their children. It was a perfect night that didn’t feel like a handout or a charity for a family but that truly was a resemblance of a community coming around struggling families to show that they are loved and cared for. Families may have come for gifts that night but they left with that feeling.
To those who volunteered we thank you. Thank you for loving your community and coming alongside us to give hope to our families. You didn’t just serve someone in the city of Fort Worth, but you gave hope and love to children and families that share the same schools, streets, and places with you in this little south side corner of the city we call home.
These are the humans of Paschal. Individuals who struggle, who give generously, who come together to change our community and teach resilience to the next generation leaders.