The air was electric one day late last December at the Northwest Park Community Center.Then came the countdown. When the OK was given, the wrapping paper flew.  Like lightning bringing down a shower of refreshing rain, the tearing of paper changed electric anticipation to sheer joy. Every child received a gift, perhaps their only one that Christmas.

The 35 students who participate in the YFS after-school program knew the drill, but they weren’t sure of the outcome. It was the day of the holiday party. In keeping with tradition, each child was about to be called. A child went forward to receive a wrapped gift, after his or her name was read and cheers from all the other students rang out. They all held their presents and continued cheering for their peers. Not one  child dared peek under the wrapping paper the cheering continued until every child held a wrapped gift.

Sports jerseys, soccer balls and pants, hats and gloves and so many Disney “Frozen” dolls were waved triumphantly in the air.  The smiles and excitement were  contagious for the adult onlookers.

Each YFS community center has its own tradition during the  holiday, but the highlight for all is the gift giving made possible through a caring collaboration between Silver Spring YMCA  members and YFS. More than 225 gift requests were hung as ornaments on the tree in the Y Silver Spring lobby, and as they were adopted by individuals and families, each returned as a wish fulfilled.  “For our students, this is the one time of year they can give voice to what would really delight them,” said Northwest Park Program Coordinator Serena Locust. “I wish every Angel Tree donor could see the joy on these kids’ faces.”