- Sophie &Friends
Every year at this time, my team and I plan and run 4 holiday parties for organizations that support the homeless and at-risk population in the Bay Area. These events range from small gatherings in the center’s dining hall, to large events in donated mansions. Each event is very special and has it’s own flavor. One is all about making a stuffed animal, another about having quality time with Santa. Another event provides an opportunity for guests to meet local sports heroes and this one is about having all-out, crazy carnival fun.
This year we had a few logistical problems, but the dear elves at Fun Express saved our Christmas by sending Santa’s sleigh early. Fun Express is the wholesale branch of the amazing Oriental Trading. For businesses like mine they are the go-to place for fun.
Due to some crazy shipping mishap (not at all the fault of Fun Express), 6 of our 13 boxes of goodies - meant to be prizes for all our carnival games - were stuck in Utah. This, in a word, was a tragedy. I know, I know, in the great scheme of all that is going on in the world, you may wonder why a stuffed kitty or a blow up guitar is really that important. For me, the thought of a child not receiving a prize for their hard earned play (hey, have you ever tried to toss a stuffed santa down a chimney?) was devastating.
If you’ve ever planned or worked a carnival you know just how important prize picking can be to a child. It’s a process. They earn the tickets to buy their own prizes. They feel empowered by this process. It’s more than just receiving a present - it’s a personal investment. Man a prize booth some day, if you can. It’s a fascinating social study. Some kids race up, tickets in hand, and buy whatever catches their fancy. Others scope out the entire booth, calculate the number of tickets they need, then play the games to acquire their desired prizes. Others still run back and forth from table to prizes, earning what they need, purchasing, then running back to the games for round two, three, and four. And there’s always a few that just hold onto the tickets - they don’t buy anything - they just clutch those tickets fiercely.
When I discovered that over half of my boxes were not going to make it in time for my carnival, I was crushed. Sadly, it was a Sunday when I discovered the mistake. The party was on Tuesday. There was little I could do until Monday morning. In a panic, I went to Target and purchased every prize I could find, knowing it wouldn’t compare to what I had ordered, but I would at least have something I could use as a buffer.
First thing Monday morning I called Fun Express to see if I could at least find out what was packed in the 6 missing boxes. I figured if I knew what I was missing, I could somehow fill in with retail items. That’s when the Angels at Fun Express came to my rescue. When I explained my situation to Sandy, she arranged, without me even asking, to replace the items and overnight them to our local UPS hub. Thanks to her generosity of heart, and willingness to go the extra mile, she helped us figure out a solution. Without Sandy and Steve, the very understanding customer service rep who listened to my plight and then directed me in the right direction, things would not have been as merry for over 350 kids. Thanks to all the wonderful team at Fun Express we received so many smiles, joked with so many kids, and slipped so many unpaid prizes across the table to little ones lacking the skills necessary to get the “big ticket” items.
It was a truly magical and merry moment thanks to all those who saw fit at the Fun Express North Pole.
Thank you Sandy, Steve, and Fun Express, for the best Christmas present ever….compassion.