The holiday season here at Boys Town is big — really big. The first thing you must understand is that for many of these kids, this is the first time they’re truly getting to celebrate Christmas and the New Year. They often come to us from distressed families in at-risk urban, suburban or rural neighborhoods, where students are sometimes lucky just to make it through the day without being shot, robbed or arrested. Many consider themselves fortunate just to have a decent meal to eat. For these kids, celebrating the holidays was something other people did, not them.
So, when they come to Boys Town, we really show them the meaning of Christmas. This not only involves twinkling lights, holiday events and fun activities, but also exposing them to the religious meaning of Christmas.
Nearly 35 percent of Boys Town students don’t go home for the holidays, so we plan events on campus each day during break to show them what it’s like to celebrate as a family. We have movie nights and bowling nights. We go out for pizza. We take them to athletic events in the community.
Each year, Boys Town holds a Christmas Caucus during which we focus on modeling positive holiday behavior and teach appropriate social skills, such as how to accept a gift you may not like.
We also have what we call “Christmas Homes,” where Boys Town youth living on campus temporarily stay in another Family Home as guests. This mixes things up and allows our children to hang out with a new group of kids and get to know other Family-Teachers.
We’re never short of entertainment, either. Boys Town students put on performances of “The Greatest Story Ever Told” and O. Henry’s classic “The Gift of the Magi.” Everything culminates with a visit from Santa himself, who arrives in style on a fire truck to light the nativity and share hot cocoa and cookies with our kids.
Those who have gone home for Christmas are due back by noon on New Year’s Eve, which gives them a chance to attend our annual New Year’s Eve Bash, a post-prom-type event that’s held in our Fieldhouse.
The holidays are certainly a busy time here at Boys Town, but regardless of the event or activity, everything is focused on giving our kids a taste of the true meaning of Christmas.