On December 14, 2020 excitement and anticipation filled the newly constructed SOS Illinois Roosevelt Square Community Center as children were eager to celebrate the holiday season with Santa’s newest helper – Akiem Hicks. Hicks returned to SOS Children’s Villages Illinois again by participating in the Holiday Giving Program, which supports SOS Illinois children by sharing gifts of joy and comfort during the holiday season.
Akiem Hicks embraced the seasonal spirit of giving by making a positive impact in Chicago. Eighty children and families were in attendance in timed increments for the holiday party, which included socially-distanced fun, holiday music, and treats.
When Akiem entered the building with his mother, Desiree, they were greeted by a trio of socially-distanced families, all proudly displaying handmade signs and posters welcoming the Chicago Bears Defensive End with smiles and cheers. After the excitement had died down, Akiem gave a heartfelt speech on the importance of family and community, sharing for him how the holidays are time for togetherness.
Akiem spoke to the small group, “It’s a pleasure to be here and to give back. One of the things that was instilled in me as a youth by my mother, which is why I like her here with me, [was to have] a positive outlook on life. This is the season of hope, and what I wanted to do was make some children smile. I know I can’t see your faces under your masks, but I have some gifts that are sure to make you happy.”
Once the speeches were done, individual families greeted Akiem and his mom, safely and socially-distanced. Then, Akiem and his mom shared a special gift to make the holidays a little bit brighter.
The children got to pick out their favorite toy, from a stockpile that ranged in everything from science experiments to footballs to dolls to board games so that every child, both young and old, could find their perfect and special gift. While picking out their new toys the children and families talked and took pictures with Hicks and his mother. After the families were able to spend time with Hicks, they then ended the night by brining home a large goodie bag full of treats, a pizza dinner, and a night of memories they’ll never forget.
Tim McCormick, CEO of SOS Illinois shared a few comments on behalf of the children and families, “This is the season of hope . . . and if there ever was a year and a holiday season we need hope, it would be now. For the lives of the children you helped this holiday season, thank you so much.” He continued, “Hope begins with a dream. The dream then has to be acted upon with hard work – just like how you have worked so hard in your career. By being here with us today, you give us all hope that one day we can do the things you are doing . . . acheiving our dreams and in return giving the gift of hope back to others.”