RFK Holiday Party brings Winter Cheer to Hundreds of Children

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The morning of Saturday, December 9 dawned gray and overcast, and by 9 o’clock the snow had started falling in steady drifts. But that didn’t deter the dozens of parents and young children who were walking towards Restoration Plaza. They were here to celebrate the annual Robert F. Kennedy Holiday Party, a widely anticipated community event that attracts hundreds of attendees every year.

As the guests walked into our spacious lobby, they were greeted by a festive scene. A tall Christmas tree stood in one corner, festooned with glittering ornaments. White and red poinsettias in large planters were placed along the perimeter walls. Across the room stood an ornate cast-iron sled, complete with a friendly Santa.

As the visitors lined up to register, cheerful holiday music filled the air. A large orange drum dispensed hot chocolate, the perfect beverage for a snowy winter day. Many children took turns having their pictures taken with Santa.  Then they, along with their parents, headed down to the basement, where an array of interesting activities were unfolding: face painting, DIY crafts, storytelling and a free dental exam offered by the insurance company DentaQuest.

At quarter to eleven, the guests were requested to proceed to the Billie Holiday Theatre, where a special live show was about to begin.  Soon the auditorium was filled to capacity with eager crowds. On two ends of the large, red-curtained stage stood several illuminated holiday trees, their fairy lights magnifying the magical atmosphere.  Once the curtains parted, the audience were swept away into a colorful, pulsating world of ballet, modern and African dance, and spoken word performances – all presented by young performers from our Youth Arts Academy and the Noel Pointer Foundation.

After the show, the visitors made their way to the Multipurpose Room for the party’s finale: packed lunches for the kids and free gift bags full of new books, topped off with festively decorated cupcakes. The RFK party emphasizes literacy and a love of reading, so the book distribution is a central part of this event. In the weeks leading up to the party, we had received boxes upon boxes of books donated by some of the top children’s publishers: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, HarperCollins, Scholastic, Penguin Random House, Lerner Publishing and others. Their painted faces shining with joy, the children grabbed their book bags and retreated to the corners to examine their loot.

Several local civic organizations sent volunteers to work the party. Lisa B., a volunteer representing the Brownstoners of Bedford-Stuyvesant, said, “I’ve been coming to this event for five years. Many of these children will not be part of any other holiday activities – except maybe at their schools. It’s wonderful to see them having a good time and running around with other kids. Thanks to Restoration for bringing joy to so many lives.”

Children learning choreography for their holiday dance routine

Charissa L., a community resident, who was attending with her two children, Andre, 5, and Alyssa, 8, said, “I always look forward to this party.  There is so much to do, to see, to enjoy – both for children and for adults. Life in Bed-Stuy wouldn’t be the same without the RFK Holiday Party. May this party come around for years and years.”