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Forgotten Children’s Fund spreads holiday cheer

December 26, 2018
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Madeline Matyas, 6, gives Santa (Joe Avila) a hug Monday morning in the parking lot of Burlington-Edison High School after receiving presents through the Forgotten Children’s Fund. Madeline’s family had just lost their home and is staying with a friend.

BURLINGTON — Six-year-old Kremarin Vazquez jumped up and down Monday morning on the porch or her Burlington home, waiting excitedly for her guest to arrive.

With a jingle-jingle and a “ho-ho-ho,” Santa rounded the corner of his white Ford sleigh and climbed the steps to greet her.

“Feliz Navidad,” the jolly old man in the red suit shouted as he unloaded presents for Kremarin and her sisters Celeste, 11, and Miriam, 3.

About 150 Skagit County families such as the Vazquezes had a similar experience Monday, as teams with the Forgotten Children’s Fund made their annual treks to help families in need.

“When you go into those houses, you carry more than just gifts,” said Dick Nord, one of the Skagit County co-organizers. “You carry the feeling of hope.”

In the empty parking lot at Burlington-Edison High School, 5-year-old Gabrieal Matyas and 6-year-old Madeline Matyas giddily opened their presents.

After opening each one, they shouted to their mother Heather that it was just what they wanted.

“I got a scooter! I got a scooter!” Madeline shouted.

Both of the girls, along with their sister Embrosia Rushton, happily put on their new gloves and hats.

“It’s super nice,” said Heather Matyas, whose family recently lost their home. “When you have a lot of hardship, it’s very heartwarming.”

Each child served by the fund gets toys, at least one book, warm clothing and necessities such as toothbrushes. The families also receive food, and sometimes bicycles.

As she gave Santa one big hug after another, Madeline also gave him a pack of gum — one of the gifts that he had just given her.

“I do it for them,” said Joe Avila, who volunteered as Santa this year. “The kids and their families.”

Avila has been volunteering with the fund since 2010.

The youngest of 15 children, Avila said it was important to him to volunteer.

He remembers as a child lining up in the Burlington-Edison High School gym where an organization gave out one present per child.

“I’m blessed to own my own business and be able to give back year after year,” he said.

This year was the largest yet, Nord said, with 16 volunteer Santas and their teams of elves heading out in Skagit County alone.

Along the I-5 corridor, he said about 800 families would be visited by Santas and their teams.

“You can’t stop,” said co-organizer Nancy Knutson, who has been volunteering with the organization for 12 years. “When you can do something to help someone else, you do it.”

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