Each year, the Foundation sponsors The Ruth Sokolof Christmas Party for Blind and Visually Impaired Children, with funding provided by the Karen Sokolof Javitch Charitable Trust. The party provides children with an independent holiday shopping experience and allows them to develop social skills through interactions with volunteers and mall and store employees.
In 1958, Ruth Sokolof and Bernice Wolfson helped establish the Children’s Sight Center pre-school for children with visual impairments at the Beth El Jewish Synagogue in Omaha. Ruth began sponsoring Christmas parties in 1960 in order to give her students an opportunity to enjoy the gift of giving at Christmas time. Each of her students were given $5 and taken shopping so they could buy gifts for their family and friends.
Ruth funded the party until her death in 1982, when her husband, Phil Sokolof, continued to fund the party in Ruth’s memory. Since Phil’s death in 2004, his daughter, Karen Sokolof Javitch, has provided funds to assure that the party continues. The Christmas Party has grown from helping eight children in 1960 to assisting over 140 children in 2014.
The party is held annually in December at the Westroads Mall in Omaha. The Foundation pairs each shopper with high school student volunteers, and gives each shopper $100 in a combination of cash and gift cards to complete their shopping. The shopper and the volunteers tour the mall, purchase gifts, wrap them and enjoy lunch, all at no cost.
Any blind or visually impaired Nebraska child between the ages of 5 and 18 is eligible to attend the party. The Foundation mails and e-mails information regarding the party to every eligible child in its database during the fall of each year. If you know of an eligible child who would like to attend, please contact us so that we can include the child in our database.
The 2016 party was held on Sunday, December 11, 2016. Over 145 blind or visually impaired children participated, assisted by over 225 high school and adult volunteers. You can read some of the press coverage of the 2016 party here.
The Foundation thanks the following Omaha metropolitan area high schools for supplying volunteers for the 2016 party:
The Foundation also thanks the following businesses and organizations for their contributions to the 2015 party:
The 2016 party will be held on Sunday, December 10, 2017. Registration for the 2017 party will open on November 1, 2016 and close on December 3, 2016. You can obtain the informational flyer and registration information for the 2017 party here when it becomes available. Children must be pre-registered to attend the party, and registration information will be included in the informational flyer.
The success of the party depends heavily on the efforts of volunteers. We recruit high school volunteers from Omaha metro area high school service organizations to act as “shopping buddies” for our shoppers. We also benefit from adult volunteers who help with set-up and clean up and oversee wrapping and food service at the party. If you would like to volunteer for the 2017 party, please contact us.