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LAFAYETTE, Ind. — For some, Christmas isn't the best time of the year.
The season is full of holiday cheer, families are gathering and there are toys under the tree waiting to be opened on Christmas morning.
But for others, Christmas can be one of the most difficult times of the year.
How does a parent explain to a child they can’t afford gifts this year?
It’s a hard task to do.
Bauer family understands this.
For the past 32 years, Bauer Inc. has been hosting a Subway Snowflake party, an event where kids from the community whose families may be struggling financially this year are showered with gifts and a big party.
“Thirty-two years ago, my mom started the event at our first store. When the campus was slow and there was no business, she brought in eight to 10 kids into the store. She let them make sandwiches behind the counter and gave them a bunch of Christmas presents. And it just kind of snowballed, no pun intended, from there,” said Mike Bauer, owner of Bauer Inc.
The event has grown much larger since then; instead of eight to 10 kids, Bauer Inc. now invites youngsters from four different elementary schools and both Boys & Girls Clubs to their Christmas event. This year, Bauer has invited around 282 kids to the event, which will be held on Dec. 9 at the Great United Skates in Lafayette.
“We reach out to the different groups and give them a spreadsheet that basically says we need to have the child’s name, shoe size, their favorite color, their shirt size and what they want from Santa,” said Bauer.
Once Bauer gets the spreadsheets back, he and a group of volunteers venture out into Black Friday shopping and proceed to fill a bag with gifts for each child.
“There’s a list that we give the volunteers of what the kid’s interests are. Like, let’s say, Johnny is a boy, who is 7 years old and blue is his favorite color. He needs a size 6 shoe and he’s a medium shirt. That way if Johnny says he needs shirts or pajamas, we make sure we get him the right size. We always try and get something warm for the kids. And on that list, it says what the kid wants, so if Johnny says he’s into Legos, Batman and Nerf, the person that goes will be able to shop at Walmart and fill up the bag for Johnny,” said Bauer.
Normally, Bauer allocates a $70 to $90 budget per child and tries to get as many presents as possible within the budget. But if his current budget can’t afford as much as it did the previous year, Bauer isn’t against raising the budget of every child even if it comes at his own expense.
He’s able to offer this budget because throughout the year he collects donations across his 16 Subway locations for this specific event. Any customer who does donate, they’re able to fill out a snowflake, which Bauer’s staff will hang up around his stores.
After all the gifts are purchased, and after all the gifts are wrapped, that’s when the fun finally begins.
Bauer invites all the kids to Great United Skates in Lafayette, and over the next few hours, the kids are greeted with a giant buffet, an opportunity to meet Santa Claus and a whole roller rink to themselves.
“At the time of the party and the event, when the kids are out there roller skating, Santa will show up and then we bring out all the bags of presents for each kid and call them up by school and by name. We will call each kid up and they get a minute or so to talk to Santa and get a picture taken with him. They’ll get candy canes from Mrs. Clause and then they get the mad present,” said Bauer.
“It’s really heartwarming to see these kids. Some of them are so excited, they can’t wait to rip open their bags right there are the skating rink and other kids are like, “This is my Christmas present and I’m not touching any of this until Christmas day”. And you can watch em kind of shake the bags and figure what it is, but they’re not going to open it because they’re so excited and it’s their prize.”
And it’s these kids' smiles that make the event worth it for Bauer every year. The opportunity to make these kids’ Christmas is worth more than anything, said Bauer.
“Our goal is to make sure these kids have their dream Christmas.”
If anyone would be interested in donating to the Subway Snowflake party or would like to participate in any of the events, they can reach Mike Bauer at email@example.com or call him at (765) 337-2941.
Noe Padilla is a reporter for the Journal & Courier. Email him at Npadilla@jconline.com and follow him on Twitter at 1NoePadilla.
This article originally appeared on Lafayette Journal & Courier: Bauer Inc. to host their Subway Snowflake Party for kids in the community