Valkyrie Reed, a Senior at Trinity High School, contributed to this report.
3,776 children are getting Christmas this year because of the generosity of their neighbors, and they’ll never know it. After four nights of fun — 20 parties serving 21 schools — Night of Hope has come to its logistical end. There are no more cookies to snack on, no more turkey dinners awaiting distribution, and no more gifts disguised as numbered trash bags waiting to go home with their unwitting recipients. But Night of Hope isn’t really over yet.
Come Christmas morning, those trash bags will be long gone. Their contents will sit, repackaged, beneath trees or next to stockings on the mantle as they wait for smiling children to unwrap them. Whether they come with tags labeled “Mom,” “Dad,” or “Santa” is up to the parents who will keep the gifts hidden until then. But even after the joy of that morning fades and the toys fall apart, Night of Hope won’t be over.
Because Night of Hope isn’t about one night. It’s about one incredible community.
Through the Eyes of a Child
Night of Hope takes place on the last week of school in the Hurst-Euless-Bedford Independent School District. Most students attend parties hosted on their elementary campus, returning to their school — with parents in tow — for the festivities. On those nights, the schools transform.
Christmas decorations fill the cafeterias and auditoriums that play host to Night of Hope. Volunteers pack the halls, meticulously lining up napkins full of cookies and trays overflowing with salty treats. Elsewhere in the school, hidden from the prying eyes of students, the aforementioned trash bags wait to be claimed. Cheerful holiday songs float above it all.
“This night means so much, not only to us as a staff but also to our families… when they come here, whether it’s tonight or future days, they’re just so thankful,” said North Euless Assistant Principal Amber Cook. “Their kids; their faces light up. They are just so super, super grateful.”
Teachers, principals, and neighbors await the students as they line up to check in. Some of the children are bashful, but most are eager to trade hugs and high-fives with the men and women they recognize. Once they settle into their seats, they’ll find even more new friends. Volunteers from nearby churches provide the families with snacks and entertainment. For them, this is an opportunity to show their neighbors the love of Jesus Christ.
“I love to talk with the families and let them know that there’s a true reason for Christmas. There’s a real reason to have hope,” said Whitney Blain, a volunteer from Foundation Baptist Church. “I think they understand that there really are truly people out there who care about them just because they’re people, not from what we can get from them. We don’t want them to join our church, unless the Lord brings them there. We don’t want their money. We don’t want anything from them. We just care about them because they are God’s creation, and because they deserve to know the Truth. I think everybody senses that here, and the families always seem very grateful just for the small snack and the interaction.”
“[This night is about] spreading the love of Jesus through my community that I live in,” said Lindsie Cline, a former HEB student who came dressed as the Grinch this year. “It’s just fun.”
Fun that speaks to these families about what it means to be loved. To be part of a real community.
Rich in Love
15 of the 21 schools that participate in Night of Hope are Title 1 campuses; high percentages of their population come from disadvantaged homes. For those students, Christmas presents are unlikely. For them, the holiday isn’t about gifts. They just want to belong.
“It would be really difficult for them to not have things when all the other children are talking about what they got over the Christmas break. Night of Hope gives them the things that they might need to fulfill that happiness during the Christmas season,” said Joy Cruz, a counselor at West Hurst Elementary.
“I gives me happiness, as well, to see that all the children are seeing all these wonderful examples of people who are giving and kind and caring to others. I feel like it opens their hearts and helps the children learn to be more giving and sharing with others.”
Over and over again, families told us that they valued the community they witnessed over the gifts they received. One mother said that her old school district never would have done anything like this. Another spoke to her next-door neighbor for the first time as he helped her load Christmas dinner into her car.
“I think the value of this event is that our students really get to see a community coming together on their behalf. They get to see what it’s really like to see adults participating in community service,” said HEB ISD Superintendent and 6 Stones Board Member Steve Chapman. “For many of these kids, they would not have a Christmas without the support of this community, without 6 Stones. Everything 6 Stones does for our school district adds value.”
That value is measured in people, not gifts.
Thank you for being part of another incredible year. Visit the blog homepage for more stories about the way this community came together in 2016.