The 29th year of Clark’s Christmas Kids kicks off in Dunwoody today. This year the nearly two-week event is expected to provide gifts for more than 10,000 children in Georgia’s foster care system who otherwise might not get anything on Christmas morning.
Jamie Kelley, who benefited from the program over the years, is thankful children like her aren’t forgotten for the holiday.
Now age 20, she entered the foster care system along with her five siblings when she was 11-years-old.
“I was distraught. It was hard because I didn’t know what was going on at a young age,” she tells WSB’s Sandra Parrish.
>>LISTEN TO SANDRA PARRISH’S FULL ON-AIR REPORT BELOW.
While her brothers and sisters would eventually return home, Kelley remained in the system where she would go on to finish high school and is now a rising Senior at Georgia Gwinnett College with plans to go to graduate school.
“I am a first-generation college student and high school student; so, I wouldn’t be able to do all this at home if everything (didn’t) happen,” she says.
During those years, Kelley had no idea that many of those gifts she received for Christmas came from those who donated through Clark’s Christmas Kids.
“You never know; some kids don’t have Christmas. So, just to be able to get one gift… I think that was great to just have one gift to open on Christmas,” she says.
But more than the gifts she received, it was the messages that came with them that made the biggest impact on her life.
“The messages that they wrote like, ‘I see a future in you’ (and) ‘You’re going to do great in life, just keep pushing forward’; stuff like that can really can take a person a long way,” says Kelley.
She has kept all those messages in a box from over the years.
Kelley now looks back with no regrets, believing everything happens for a reason.
“I’m actually glad it happened, because I wouldn’t be here today if didn’t,” she says.
And Kelley loves giving back now that she’s older.
“Now since I’m at that age in life, I enjoy giving back. That’s one of my favorite things to do besides working and school,” she says.
You can donate to Clark's Christmas Kids through Dec. 15th at ten Walmart locations throughout metro Atlanta. For more information, click here.