The space at ArtSpace was filled with activity on Thursday, Dec. 23, as more than 35 underprivileged children from Blount County created their own kind of art and got to take home a Christmas present as well.
Fine Arts Blount’s ArtSpace in downtown Maryville was the home for the 4th annual Holiday for Hope Christmas Party, sponsored by Dreams for Kids and FAB.
Motivational speaker and area coordinator Tim Richardson and members of FAB organized the event that brought in children to have pizza, work on crafts and visit with Santa.
Dreams for Kids is a national organization founded by Tom Tuohy in Chicago. Richardson brought the idea to Blount County. Organizers contact a number of agencies and area non-profit organizations to find children and families who need a little extra help during the holidays, said Richardson. “We tell them we’re having this event, and ask for names of anyone who might have needs at Christmas. George Williams at the Alcoa City Center has been very supportive.”
Pizza was the snack of choice as donations were secured from Papa Johns, Papa Murphys and Little Caesars which fed about 35 participants, Richardson said. Volunteers primarily were made up of area home schooling families and the Fine Arts Blount group.
“Big props to Katie Kinney (of Fine Arts Blount),” said Richardson. “She has been part of this since the very beginning.”
Richardson the youngsters typically get to do crafts, enjoy food, play games and enjoy music. “Because of FAB’s involvement, it centers on arts. They are fabulous. They provide treats and craft supplies,” he said. “Katie bends over backward and loves this event. We absolutely love working with her.”
Two local dentists, Dr. Mark Evans and Dr. Chip Webb, donated the dental items.
Richardson said the parties have been limited to under 50 because of space limitations but the volunteers like it that way. “We like to keep it small just by the nature of being able to interact with the kids,” he said.
Richardson said organizers tried something different this year to get the children accustomed to serving others. “Rather then have them come and get a gift and have fun, we wanted the event to be center on helping others. We had items donated and the children put together kits with soap, shampoo and other toiletry items for the Community Food Connection of Blount County,” he said.
Richardson said he hopes the initiative can grow to being more than just a Christmas party for less fortunate children. “As a group we’re talking to community leaders and people involved with young people about doing sports camps, drama camps, arts camps so they get something that will help them develop,” he said. “The hitch will be that it won’t be free, so we will have kids do fundraising to pay a portion of their way or pay for other children to go.”
Richardson got the idea for the Christmas party in 2006.
“It came about in 2006 when I was researching for my book on people who were rich not because of what they have but because they give. I found Tom Tuohy in Chicago who had put together, at the time, his 19th annual party,” Richardson said. “The next year when Tom called and asked us to do one in East Tennessee, we jumped at the opportunity. We’ve done parties since 2007.”