By Marti Gacioch
Christmas is coming early this year for 120 homeless children from San Diego’s St. Vincent de Paul Village at 1501 Imperial Ave. From 4:30 to 7:30 p.m., on Friday, Dec. 9, the kids, ages 4 to 17, will celebrate the holiday at the 13th annual Christmas Caroling and Limo Party on the rooftop of the La Jolla Cove Suites overlooking the ocean.
For the 10th year, Krista Baroudi, president and CEO of La Jolla Cove Suites, will host the event. Baroudi is a fourth-generation La Jollan whose grandfather built the suites. She donates the use of the hotel rooftop, makes gift purchases, and finances the face painter and soft drinks. The party is both a joyous time and a family affair for Baroudi. Her cousins bake hundreds of cookies and both of her sons help out. Marco, an 11th-grader, distributes the sodas, and Max, 11, plays Santa’s helper, handing out the gifts.
“The party is three to four hours of pure happiness and total chaos,” Baroudi said. “A close-knit group of people have helped underwrite the event for years, but every year we have to raise enough donations to cover the pizzas and limo service that brings the children to the party.”
Baroudi said she enjoys assembling goody bags for each child that contain everything from toiletries to school and dental supplies.
“Some years we’ve also been able to hand each child a few dollars on their way out because they normally don’t have anything in their pockets,” Baroudi said. “It would be awesome if we could also hand out gift cards from Target or In & Out Burger, but we’ve never had the budget to take it that far.”
San Diego HOG (Harley Davidson Owners Group) donates about 200 toys each year and also escorts the 11 limos bringing the children to the party. Local attorney, Sam Frazier, will play Santa again this year, and his wife, Pam, will play Mrs. Claus. Tom Ritz, a La Mesa Boy Scout troop leader, will lead the group in singing traditional Christmas carols. Also participating are the Kiwanis Club, the La Jolla Rotary, San Diego Pad Squad, University of Dayton Alumni, Lawinfo.com employees, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and local residents.
“Some of these kids have never been out of downtown San Diego, and some years we’ve actually seen some of the same children from previous years,” Baroudi said. “But I’ve learned that children are so resilient: if you show them negativity, it will come back to you as negativity, but if you show them something positive, it will come back to you positively tenfold.”
Baroudi said that she feels blessed that her sons volunteer at the party. “La Jolla is an entitled area, so it’s good for them to see that not every child is as fortunate as they are, and as my kids participate, their friends start coming to help as well,” Baroudi said.
According to volunteer Phil Cenedella, the event arose from a 1999 goodwill effort by a small group of La Jolla residents, who decided to create a “random act of kindness” event to honor the passing of their friend Arnie Karush. They chose the children of St. Vincent de Paul Village as the beneficiary of a Christmas party. For their first party, they had enough funding to take 24 children in three limousines to an In-and-Out Burger and a caroling session with San Diego’s Pad Squad at La Jolla Cove Park.