For 25 years, members of the local Fraternal Order of Eagles, Aerie 3566, have hosted the Boone’s Kids Annual Christmas Party at Lopez Elementary School, giving underprivileged children clothes, shoes and toys.
“This is our 25th year of giving underprivileged kids a Christmas,” said Dennis Stepka of the Fraternal Order of Eagles Aerie 3566. “This year, we had nine girls and nine boys ages 5-6 years old from Lopez Elementary School in Seffner. Santa brings them 12 pairs of socks, two pairs of shoes, complete outfits, jackets, PJs, 12 pairs of underwear, personal blankets, toys, games and scooters. Lunch is served to the children as well. It’s a very heart-warming event.”
In 2023, the event was held on December 18. Jim Boone started this fundraiser in 1998 but had to move to Michigan several years ago due to health issues. Fellow Fraternal Order of Eagles member Stepka promised his friend that he would continue the tradition.
Stepka has dressed up as Santa Claus for the event every year since he took over, spreading Christmas cheer to the children that are chosen with the help of Lopez’s guidance counselor, Lisa Kennedy.
“Most of the children don’t want a lot of toys, they just want something to play with, and most of them want clothes,” Stepka said. “The kids are very appreciative.”
The Fraternal Order of Eagles is an international nonprofit organization uniting fraternally in the spirit of liberty, truth, justice and equality to make human life more desirable by lessening its ills and promoting peace, prosperity, gladness and hope. The organization was created in 1898.
Stepka asks local businesses to be sponsors to help raise money for the gifts and event. Sponsors included this year were Hungry Howie’s, BubbaQue’s BBQ and Jules Car Wash, to name a few.
Kennedy also plays a big part in the event along with Stepka and the Fraternal Order of Eagles. Together, they bring Christmas cheer to the children in need.
“The most rewarding aspect is seeing the excitement and the appreciation of the children for what they have received,” Stepka said.
If you would like to learn more about the Fraternal Order of Eagles Aerie 3566, or if you’d like to be a sponsor of the Boone’s Kids Annual Christmas Party, you can visit Aerie 3566’s website at www.foe3566.org.