As students attending a privileged school, who receive gifts over the holidays, we often don’t consider what it would feel like to go without getting presents. Friends For Fosters, a charity started by senior Kristen Quesada and her older sister, Heritage alumna Katherine Quesada, aims to help those less fortunate receive gifts and necessities during the winter season. This year, Quesada’s goal to spread holiday cheer helped them raise over one hundred gifts to give to others.
A few years ago, Quesada, an eighth grader at the time, attended an event called Orphans Weekend at her church, which had its own foster agency called 4Kids of South Florida. The Quesada family knew they could spread awareness by focusing efforts on raising money and getting toy donations for the holiday season at school. Kristen never imagined the large-scale impact that she would make over the next four years.
After realizing that many foster kids carry their belongings in garbage bags, Kristen decided to raise money for duffel bags. This was her first charity called Duffel Bags For Darlings where she raised over $1000 for 120 bags. Her next fundraiser, Precious Presents, helped the organization 4Kids with their annual Christmas toy shop. The organization toy shop allows foster kids to choose their presents for free. Quesada arranged a box drop off with local businesses so they could help donate toys to the store. After four years of hosting this particular fundraiser, Quesada and her family have raised over 1,000 gifts.
This year, Quesada contacted the Key Club to see if they would host her toy drive and they agreed, leading to students donating more than 60 toys. “That was really big for me because I didn’t expect students who had no incentive such as service hours to want to help out, but they did,” Quesada said. She also raised a few hundred dollars on her GoFundMe page to help buy more gifts.
“I would say I’m pretty privileged in my upbringing, and seeing firsthand all these kids who don’t have the same love and support from their families was very life changing,” Quesada said.
As part of a separate drive in September, she was in shock to find that no government support went to helping kids her own age that aged out of the system, who are often left homeless. Quesada helped buy specific necessities requested by young adults who had recently aged out themselves, donating more than 400 items. She had the opportunity to personally give them the items at a dinner her organization sponsored.
After purchasing the rest of the toys with fundraised money, she dropped them off at the 4Kids headquarters and helped volunteers organize them into categories. “It was wonderful to see the people behind the charity and thank them for all they do for the community,” Quesada said.