Fostering a better holiday season

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Senior Kristen Quesada and her mother Emilia Quesada smile next to the toys raised at the school fundraiser for the 4Kids toy store. (Photo submitted by Kristen Quesada)

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, their 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. The church had its own nonprofit organization called For Kids of South Florida which also raised money for children. 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 800 gifts. 

This year, Quesada contacted the Key Club to see if they would host her toy drive and they agreed. The school donated 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. She found it appalling to find that no money went to helping kids her own age that aged out of the system. They are often left homeless. Quesada helped buy specific gifts for those her age and even some necessities. She was able to sit with them and give them their gifts. 

They dropped the rest of the toys off at the 4Kids headquarters and organized them into categories. “It was cool to see the people behind the charity and thank them for all they do for the community,” Quesada said. 

Alyssa Herzbrun, a senior at American Heritage, is in her third year of newspaper. She currently edits the opinion section of the newspaper and is a Co-Assistant Editor-in-Chief. On the weekends, Alyssa loves to volunteer at places like Broward Outreach Center, Ronald McDonald House and Feeding South Florida. Alyssa is an avid reader. Over the summer she read a book every day but school is interfering with her reading streak. She also loves to clog (not the toilet but the dance). Alyssa is looking for a great year and hopes to meet many opinionated people.

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