An evening of family fun and community bonding is the perfect antidote for busy life demands. On December 10, parents and children from the San Gabriel and Pomona valleys were invited to the H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III Cultural and Art Museum to celebrate the Christmas season with music, food, laughter and magic.

The evening was organized and sponsored by the museum as a community outreach. “During the holiday season, we thought it would be great to invite families to visit the museum,” said Brian Tyan, museum president, “And to offer programs and activities for them to enjoy.”

Planning took three weeks and 25 volunteers (in addition to regular museum staff).

Although the event was free and open to the public, guests from the Parents’ Place, a non-profit organization serving families with special needs children, made up most of those in attendance—more than 200 individuals.

The museum partnered with Parents’ Place earlier this year, offering a $5,000 donation for community services.

“We first connected with the museum in June,” said Elena Sanchez, executive director at Parents’ Place. “ We planned a drive-through event for the parents we normally serve, but couldn’t serve in person because of safety measures surrounding the pandemic. The museum donated money and sent volunteers who worked alongside us. They’ve also helped out during other holidays. They’ve done a lot for us and we’re so grateful.”

The holiday event was slated to start at 6:00 PM, but lines began forming on the steps of the museum as early as 5:30 with excitement building by the minute. Children were giddy over the beautifully lit decorations—from the sparkling white polar bears to the life-sized snowman. But the hit of the night was the Snowfall Experience, which offered the children a taste of snow, something rarely seen in Southern California.

Vanessa, a 13 year old Hispanic girl who attended the event with her mom and two siblings, admitted the main reason she was there was for the Snowfall Experience. “I wanted to see the museum because I’ve never been here,” said Vanessa, “But I really wanted to see the snow.”

Maggie and Frank, an African American couple from West Covina, said they brought their two children, ages six and one, because “it’s nice to do something as a family for the holidays. And the kids have never seen snow.”

A few people said they’d driven past the museum, but never stopped because of time constraints, so it was nice to have a night to see the art.

Many of the families who attended are recent immigrants from all over the world, including Russia, Lebanon and China. Some spoke English, while others didn’t. But they all came together to enjoy the food and festivities. When the Christmas Carolers arrived in Dickens inspired costumes, it was a first-time experience for many of the parents, and children alike.

Jingle Bell Rock, Winter Wonderland and Sleigh Ride were favorites. Later in the evening, Abbit the Average entertained the children with a quirky magic show. The museum hired him specifically because he has experience working with special needs children.

The day after the event, Elena Sanchez at Parents’ Place received multiple calls and emails from parents saying the event was very special, and it meant a lot to them and their children.

Note: Masks were required and temperatures were taken at the door to ensure safety for all attending.

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