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At seven years old, “Daniel” was feeling the burden of trying to replace the responsibilities of his late father, who died tragically in a random act of violence. Seeing that his mother was struggling with the loss and the task of being the family’s sole provider, Daniel constantly thought about how he could help his mother and brothers, ages 3 and 1. Daniel was having trouble concentrating in school and would frequently become emotionally overwhelmed.

“He never felt the carefree spirit and joy in his heart that most seven-year-olds experience,” said Janis Reid, coordinator of school-based mental health program for Hillsides, a foster care charity and institution of the Diocese of Los Angeles located in Pasadena that serves children and families living in Los Angeles County. “The holidays are always a difficult time for families who have experienced such an immense loss like Daniel’s.”

The foster care children’s charity, located in Pasadena, is able to lift the spirits of these children and their families for Christmas with the help of generous donors who adopt these families one time a year.

Daniel and his three-year old brother were referred to Hillsides, where they and their mother have been working with a therapist.

Congregations and individuals are invited to help families like Daniel’s by participating in Hillsides’  adopt-a-family program, or by donating gifts for the upcoming Christmas holidays.

“The holidays make it brighter for families like Daniel’s who will know that there are people who care about their well-being and that there is hope for the future,” said Laura Kelso, Hillsides’ director of community resources.

“During these times, it is important that the family knows that people support and recognize their efforts and that they have not been forgotten, when all around they see images of perfect families having perfect holidays,” said Reid. “It is also meaningful to have that little extra help with food, clothing and toys at a time when resources barely cover the necessities.”

Hillsides serves children of all ages, but gift Items for teenagers are especially needed this holiday season. The teens’ special wishes include: hygiene items and hair accessories; perfumes, colognes; small purses, teen type and wallets; trendy tee shirts from Hot Topic, Nike, and sport teams; hoodie sweatshirts (adult men’s and women’s sizes); gift certificates to fast food restaurants, movie theatres, music stores, and retail stores such as Target, Wal-Mart, Sport Chalet, Chick’s, Macy’s; watches and other teen jewelry; small electronic handheld games; sports memorabilia. For an ongoing holiday wish list, visit Hillsides online.

Donations may be brought to Hillsides (940 Avenue 64, Pasadena,) by December 18. Beginning on December 4, gifts may also be dropped off at any four Rusnak auto dealerships in the Pasadena area: Rusnak Audi 267 West Colorado Blvd., Pasadena; Rusnak Jaguar 336 West Colorado Blvd., Pasadena; Rusnak Mercedes-Benz 55 W. Huntington Dr., Arcadia; or Rusnak Volvo2025 East Colorado Blvd., Pasadena.

To underwrite a winter outing for the children or learn more about assisting families in crisis, contact Laura Kelso at 323.254.2274, ext. 251.