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United Way striving to help during holidays

Face To Face, United Way striving to help during holidays

Published by the Suffolk News-Herald on December 21, 2021
January 3, 2022
What 5-year old can resist face paint,especially when he can turn the tables on the face painter? That’s exactly what Ayden Thomas did toBrittany Callahan as she attempted to paint a Spiderman mask onto him. Andwhile his face painting was more abstract, it was in keeping with the fun andfestive nature of the evening during the United Way of South Hampton Roads’Holiday Extravaganza Dec. 14 at the Suffolk Family YMCA.
The extravaganza helped more than 120 HamptonRoads families — a second extravaganza was held two nights later in VirginiaBeach — including some in Suffolk, by providing gifts and meal kits to childrenand their families as they got to enjoy an evening of music, arts and crafts,cookie decorating and family photos.
Being able to have an event like this isreally bringing our mission to life, helping people, connecting people,connecting volunteers to people and families in need,” said United Way of SouthHampton Roads President Michelle Anderson. “It just brings us joy to bringpeople together like this.

Callahan, a United Way fundraiser who wasvolunteering her time as a face painter, took having her own face painted instride, alternating between painting Ayden’s face and having him paint herface. Others from Enterprise Rent-a-Car, including group rental manager CaleyKing, were also on hand to entertain the children and their families.

I love seeing the joy on their faces, of themsmiling, dancing, making cookies and crafts and having all kinds of treats,”King said. “It was really rewarding to see that.
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The music came by way of 97.3 The Eagle andthe arts and crafts thanks to the Museum of Contemporary Art’s Kim Herman, withothers from the United Way.
And for as much fun as Ayden and his olderbrothers Jordan, 7, and Mason, 9, had, it was even more fun when they were eachsurprised with bicycles to take home.
Seeing their smiles made the event well worthit for Anderson, who hopes this first-year event becomes a tradition.Even with masks on, it was hard to hide thejoy of Ashley and Aaron Thomas, who took time to have a dance.
With children and families being so stressed,just having that mental health break to have a night where you get to go outand get your picture taken and do cookies and do an art project, … many of these parents can’t afford to do that for their child,” Anderson said. “So justwatching the parents dance and the children dance, it just brings such joy tolet people be happy and celebrate the moment. That’s what it’s about for us.