The annual Elf’s Holly Day and Meal Basket event hosted by the nonprofit Crime Survivors was billed as a day of peace, hope, and healing.
Let’s throw in the word “fun.”
Hundreds of crime victims, survivors, and their families were treated to an afternoon of holiday festivities on Sunday, Dec. 17, at Boomers in Fountain Valley.
Attendees ate pizza and cupcakes, received a free turkey dinner and sacks full of Christmas presents to take home, and received two free hours of Boomers games such as go-kart racing and rock climbing.
“It’s just to have a little bit of fun away from the trauma or triggers,” said Patricia Wenskunas, founder of Crime Survivors, a nonprofit that provides support and a variety of services to victims and survivors of violent crime.
Weinskunas founded Crime Survivors 14 years ago after surviving a violent attack in her own home.
Now, she hosts events for survivors at Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.
But the star of the afternoon was the jolly old elf himself, Santa Claus, played by “Fester,” a member of the Orange County chapter of Bikers Against Child Abuse, a group of bikers whose mission is to protect and empower children.
When Santa No. 1 became ill, Fester was a last-minute fill in, donning the red suit for the first time in his life.
“It’s about bringing joy to the children,” he said. “Next year I’m coming decked out.”
Crime Survivors organizes events at least three times a year and relies heavily on volunteers.
“It just helps me realize that I am not the only one and that if I can go then I’ve got to help them go,” said Pamela Balducki, a victim of several crimes who has been volunteering with Crime Survivors for 10 years. “And then by helping them go, they really help me go.”
Through a partnership with Orange County Global Medical Center, Crime Survivors is planning to open its first resource center, Weinskunas announced.
The center will offer free counseling, healing classes, legal support, and other services, she said.
“It’s been my dream since day one,” Weinskunas said. “Whether a victim in their first 24 hours or 16 years down the road, they will be able to come to our resource center and get whatever they need there.”