January 16, 2024 | Articles News Philanthropy
Tom Gores partners with Voices for Children, Toys for Tots to continue holiday tradition of giving underserved Michigan children a chance to just ‘be a kid’
FLINT, Mich. – The blue, colonial-style house just west of downtown Flint was transformed into Santa’s workshop in mid-December.
On the inside, candy cane-decorated balloon garlands hung from the doors and decorated Christmas trees were in each room. Santa and Mrs. Claus, adorned in red-and-white winter attire, nestled into their seats while patiently waiting for youths from the Voices for Children Advocacy Center to experience a holiday surprise.
Former defense attorney Claudnyse Holloman, who left the law profession to serve as president and CEO of the organization that serves young victims of abuse, said this event is a very special moment in the kids’ lives.
“Today, they’re smiling, and today they don’t have to talk about the things that happened to them and go through that tough part of therapy,” Holloman said.
“They just get to be a kid.”
The holiday event was the first of several holiday events sponsored by Platinum Equity Founder and CEO Tom Gores who partnered once again with several organizations to provide a little holiday cheer to underserved families. More than 10,000 toys, bicycles, scooters and headphones were distributed to families in Detroit, Flint and surrounding neighborhoods. U.S. Marines and volunteers of the Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program hosted a gift event for families and children in Detroit on Dec. 15 while Voices for Children coordinated the Flint event on Dec. 12. Gores also supported The Salvation Army Downriver Corps with an additional $25,000 donation.
“This should be a special time of year for kids and their families, filled with hope and anticipation,” Gores said. “Every child deserves that sense of wonder and excitement that builds during the holidays, and to have the chance to open something that brings a smile to their face.”
Gores, who also owns the NBA’s Detroit Pistons, has partnered with Voices for Children, a Flint-based organization dedicated to serving and protecting child survivors of abuse and their families, for three consecutive years to provide a holiday experience for the children the agency serves. The childcare agency has been dedicated to serving child survivors of abuse in Genesee and Shiawassee counties through treatment, education and increasing community awareness since 2018.
In addition to the holiday party, the Gores family decided to help an additional family through the program with a Christmas transformation throughout their home with decorations, lights and presents for the children. Holloman said one of the kids didn’t think the family was going to have a Christmas tree and drew one as a substitute. The family was completely surprised when the tree arrived.
“I was in the house, and when he got home saw the Christmas tree and Christmas lights, he didn’t even pay attention to the gifts under the tree,” Holloman said. “It just was a phenomenal moment just to be there just to see the kids and how excited they were.”
Ashlee Schermerhorn, who is raising the family along with her partner, has been diagnosed with leukemia.
“I’m just overwhelmed,” she said after receiving the Christmas makeover and gifts. “It’s absolutely amazing, this feels like a dream.”
For the Flint event, the center was transformed into a holiday wonderland as 150 kids enjoyed a pizza party with a D.J., a photobooth and danced with Pistons mascot Hooper and members of the Pistons dance team. Each child received gifts from wish lists and was able to open one at the event and save the other presents for a later date.
For the Detroit event, more than 1,900 children and their families were selected for the holiday giveaway event that was held at Shed 5 of Detroit’s Eastern Market. Pistons front office staff and other volunteers helped more than 800 families select toys categorized by age range for the holiday season.
As former Pistons coach Dwane Casey helped a young girl carry her bicycle outside, he offered a testament to the impact such an event can bring.
“There was a community center in my small town in Kentucky where I grew up where we could go and get gifts for Christmas like this,” Casey said. “It was nowhere near as big as what Tom and Holly (Gores) do, but I got this little battleship in a similar setting and it’s something I’ll never forget.”
Toys for Tots, a national charitable program run by the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, aims to provide hope to less fortunate children during each Christmas season. Toys for Tots also provides support year-round to families in need. Since 2006, Gores has been a philanthropic partner of Toys for Tots, having delivered more than 155,000 toys to more than 65,000 children.
“Even before Toys for Tots, our family has always found ways to give back to those in need and finding other avenues where we can be bigger and better and service more families,” Gores family representative Tanya Van Horn said.