The Philadelphia Martin Luther King, Jr. Association for Nonviolence, Inc. sponsored its 1st Annual Children’s Christmas Dinner Party for underserved children from the Philadelphia and surrounding areas at the Wyndham Franklin Plaza Hotel, 17th and Race Street on Sunday, December 19, 2004. The Association had targeted to accommodate 1,800 to 2,000 children, however, over 4,000 children attended and the hotel overwhelmingly did not reject any of these precious jewels.
The idea and concept of a Christmas party for homeless and disadvantaged children was conceived and established over ten years ago in Washington, DC by Mr. William Tucker, Vice Chair of the Bethune Dubois Institute (a King Association affiliate) and Board Member, Philadelphia Martin Luther King, Jr. Association for Nonviolence, Inc. Many prominent personalities from the White House, other U.S. agencies, corporations and the professions have been on hand to share this joyous celebration with the children including, Mayor Anthony Williams, Dr. Dorothy I. Height and Mrs. Alma (Colin) Powell.
In 2003, the tenth anniversary, the Bethune DuBois Institute hosted over 3,000 children in the ballroom of the Washington Hilton Hotel from Washington, DC, Maryland and the Virginia areas. Each child received a gift distributed by the U.S. Marine Corps: Toys for Tots, took home a goody bag, received a surprise visit from Santa, and was treated to a festive Christmas pageant while they feasted on a full course turkey dinner.
In 2004, Ms. Diane Cauley, former Human Resources Director at Wyndham Franklin Plaza Hotel, challenged Mr. Tucker to bring the Christmas Party to Philadelphia with the task of targeting disadvantaged children in the area. Diane approached the General Manager of the Hotel to be the 2004 Corporate Host Sponsor and the hotel graciously accepted. At the event we expected to host 1,800 children, however, over 3,800 children showed up and we were miraculously able to feed and give a toy to each one. The hotel management was so delighted as they closed hotel restaurants and set up tables even in the lobby to accommodate the children.
For many children this event has been their first total Christmas experience. They have been treated to a full course Christmas dinner, a special Christmas program that embodied the meaning and spirit of Christmas and gifts/toys with surprise visits from special Christmas characters, Disney Characters and Sesame Street Characters. There was a special performance by recording artist, Tina “J” and Tamia “J” who lead the children in Christmas Carols and also Kim Sledge of “Sister Sledge” and others. The ballroom is usually beaming with Christmas decorations made into a magnificent winter-wonderland.