Charities to receive proceeds from arts event

Years ago when Friends of Santa began, founder Tom Cain would dress up as Santa and deliver gifts to the underprivileged kids it served in the nearby communities of Tolono, Philo, Sidney, Sadorus and Pesotum.

One Christmas Eve, Cain had returned home after a long day of driving and delivering gifts to a message on the answering machine from a father asking for him to return, as the family was out earlier in the day.

Cain donned his Santa gear, and he and his wife set out to deliver their final gifts. When they arrived, the two children, an 8-year-old girl and a 5-year-old boy, were ecstatic. The girl sat down first and happily received her gifts. When it came time for the young boy’s turn, he requested his two gifts: a teenage mutant ninja turtle and some walkie-talkies. 

“I put the little boy back on my lap and gave him his gifts, and he went just crazy,” Cain said. “The dad stood up and walked over to me quietly and hugged me and said ‘God bless you. This is the best Christmas we’ve ever had.’”

This year, the charity will be supported by the organization One People, who will be hosting an arts event on Dec. 13 called “The Lounge.” 

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The event will be held at The Hub, 912 W. Springfield Ave., and all of the proceeds will go toward benefiting Friends of Santa, along with an orphanage in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. 

Each lounge has a theme, with this event being GIFTED, which stands for “giving is for the every day.”

“We wanted to remind our audience, especially since this is part of what we do, that giving is for the everyday, and it kind of fits into the theme of the holiday season too,” said Michelle Adeoye, the organization’s director and University graduate student.     

She said One People connected with Cain and his organization through her church and knew he was accepting donations for the children in the community.

The organization is also helping Cain support an orphanage in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where the orphanage founder, a graduate student at Eastern Illinois University, tries to bring toys to the children who have never experienced a holiday celebration, Adeoye said.

She said she likes being able to support both the global and local community in the effort. 

“I am enjoying that I am able to give back to not only in Champaign-Urbana and Tolono but also across the world and thousands upon thousands of miles away,” Adeoye said. “To be able to give back to these kids — that’s by far the best part.”

In the past, One People has raised money to build clinics in Nigeria and renovate a school in Kenya. It has also partnered with local organizations to raise awareness of certain issues.

The event features a variety of performances in different artistic styles ranging from musical performance to spoken word.

“It draws a lot of diversity, and I like that it draws everyone for the same common cause,” said Carrie Wells, spoken word artist and graduate student. “It is bringing us together in a lot of different styles, a lot of different formats, different art work, but it’s bringing us together in order to benefit these different projects that One People puts on.”

Wells has been involved with One People since the group’s beginning in April and said performing in the event allows artists to share their abilities while helping others.

“I think it’s such a great way for people to use their skills in a way that can really make a difference,” Wells said. “Instead of just having these skills and these abilities, people can do something with it that can benefit others.” 

Adeoye said that she believes that these events give artists a different venue to share their talents.

“People want to be entertained for a purpose,” she said

Miranda can be reached [email protected].