For many, the holidays are a time of good cheer and family togetherness. However, for kids who have lost a parent, the holidays can be a harsh reminder of the one special person who is missing. Now an annual holiday tradition, Yatooma’s Foundation For The Kids made a very special holiday visit to three families supported by the Foundation who are facing their first holiday season after the death of a parent.

Yatooma’s Foundation For The Kids, led by “Santa Claus” (also known around Metro Detroit as attorney and Foundation founder Norman Yatooma), surprised families of children who have recently lost a parent in Rochester and two families in Pontiac with an “Extreme Christmas Makeover.”

This year’s families included a widow and her five children; a widower, Rickie Lemus and his four boys; and a sister raising her nephews following the murder of their mother and the death of their grandparents. Locals may remember Mr. Lemus and his story from last holiday season. His wife Ana was diagnosed with brain cancer shortly after Thanksgiving last year, the family spent the holidays in the hospice unit of the hospital, Ana died just after New Year’s Day.

The families received winter gear, clothing and toys, among other gifts based on need. In addition, the Foundation provided families with groceries and other basic needs, such as living expenses and utilities, to get them through the winter months.

“Although we will never be able to bring back Mom or Dad, we can still give these kids a memory that will live on, which will include Santa and dozens of elves showing up to their homes with gifts, holiday cheer, and most importantly, support,” Yatooma said. “We are especially thankful to all of our partners, contributors and volunteers, who make it possible for us to help change the lives of these families in the holiday season.”

Yatooma’s Foundation For The Kids is a nonprofit organization bringing emotional, financial, educational, employment and social stability to families of children who have lost one or both parents to death. The Foundation was founded in Honor and Loving Memory of Manuel S. Yatooma, who was murdered in 1993.

The Foundation provides services such as grief counseling and support groups, needs-based financial assistance to help with groceries, mortgage/rent assistance, utility assistance and transportation assistance, mentorship, tutoring, educational summer camp experiences, tuition assistance, job placement, family togetherness activities and much more.