Group Struggles With Funds For Military Family Christmas Carnival
It's a program that's grown every year along with the need. Operation Santa Military Families Carnival is $50,000 short of its goal for the event. Why are big Pittsburgh companies refusing to help?
It's hard to hear that local businesses are not supporting military groups like they used to, especially this time of year when the need is even greater. That is what Kristi Hilbert says is happening and it's putting the efforts of her team in danger, but it's not stopping the Bridges Kids Club from moving forward with Operation Santa Military Family Carnival. Sparkt founder and CEO Marty Griffin takes you inside the operation to see what they're doing and why their plans may have to change.
The Carnival has grown from 150 kids and family members the first year, to 1500 military family members expected this year. While that might sound extravagant, Kristi says it's not, compared to the sacrifice military families make. And she's firm on her pledge that every family that wants to attend should be able to, regardless of need.
"A lot of times they're reluctant to attend because they don't want it to look like they're in need," explained Kristi.
"Especially being in the military. They're very proud. They're normally the ones being the hero, not someone else being the heroes for them."
The carnival also provides a wonderful opportunity for Kristi's "Bridges Kids Club" to volunteer. Kristi founded the club when her own kids, now teenagers, were just five and seven. Club members and other young volunteers shop "wish lists" for the kids coming to the carnival, then sort toys, check off wish lists and staff the event, getting the chance to meet the kids they shopped for.
If Operation Santa doesn't reach its funding goal, the event will still go on but...
"we will have to start making cuts," admitted Kristi.
That means fewer activities, less food and other smaller items like game prizes, but she's not giving up hope.