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Converted from paper version of the Broad Ripple Gazette (v06n25)
And In The OTHER Cultural Districts... - Casey Jo Ailes
posted: Dec. 18, 2009

And In The Cultural Districts header

If you haven't noticed the holly trimmed doors or the lights twinkling on the monument circle, then maybe this year the holidays have snuck up on you. What have you done this year to help out? It's not too late to make a difference in someone's life this Holiday Season. On Saturday, December 12th down in the Mass Ave Cultural District, I had the chance to photograph the YMCA's 11th Annual Breakfast with Santa. This event was sponsored by The Rathskeller, Indy Metro Church and the Mass Ave Toy Store. The day brought out beautiful smiles to over 100 children and their families who call Indy's shelters home, including Wheeler Family Shelter, Julian Center and the Dayspring Shelter. As I entered the Rathskeller's banquet facility, children danced around the tables as Santa's Elves helped them get a delicious hot plate full of eggs, muffins and fruit. While the children sat and ate their breakfast, Santa went from table to table greeting each individual child and posing for a Polaroid that the child got to take with them to remember the day. Walking around with my camera that morning, I attempted to capture all the moments that made these children smile that morning. Santa is always exciting to see, but this year they had a special treat for the kids where an Elf read them stories, did a live animal show, and even brought out one of Santa's reindeers, which made the children all smile and clap with joy.

And In The OTHER Cultural Districts... - Casey Jo Ailes
image courtesy of Casey Jo Ailes

When I found out that the YMCA has put this event on for 11 years I was pleasantly surprised to see such hospitality and a room full of volunteers (a.k.a. Santa's Elves) willing to give their time not only on this morning, but many of them spent time collecting toys for the children and making sure that they were wrapped and ready to go. With each "Elf" not expecting anything in return except maybe to see a child who may not even have a home this year smile when given a single gift from Santa at this Breakfast event, that was enough to warm the heart this holiday season.
Many of us have felt the hardship over the last year with the economy, especially in the Indianapolis Arts community, galleries have closed, jobs have been lost, funds have been cut, art classes cancelled, but even with all of that, seeing the children on that morning so happy makes you forget about the cold outside.
If you have a warm spot in your heart and want to help out a child this year, maybe consider donating some art supplies. Many children in need do not have any books to read, and what a wonderful way to give back with a story they can learn to read. Currently there are still many Toy Drives going on in the city, and you may not receive the same joy as if you hand the child the gift yourself, but know on Christmas morning they will be smiling because of you. Something else for us to consider is there is always a need for gently used items such as coats, gloves and hats. A few toys and some new clothes can certainly brighten the holidays for Indianapolis families who are going through some tough times. One of many Toy Drives going on; WRTV-6 television station will be accepting donations through December 19th, call to find out on location drop offs (317.635.9788).
And if that didn't grab your attention, think about donating to the children that spend their holiday season at Riley Hospital. Check out the list here: If I may, I would suggest drawing sets, Etch-a-Sketch, and maybe a book to doodle in with some crayons. Hospital bills can be trying on parents and the holidays may not be the number one top priority this year, so again to stop and think how can we help someone else this year is an amazing gesture.

Casey Jo Ailes holds a Bachelor in Fine Arts from Herron School of Art and teaches at the Indianapolis Art Center. She is an award winning artist and focuses on photography and painting. Casey has been published nation wide and shows her work locally. Contact her at
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