By Matt Mueller Culture Editor Published Dec 09, 2022 at 5:01 PM

Snuggle up with some holiday cheer as OnMilwaukee shares stories of everything merry and bright in the spirit of the season.

The OnMilwaukee Ho Ho Holiday Guide is brought to you by Educators Credit Union, Harley-Davidson Museum and MolsonCoors

Started in just 2006, Kapco Metal Stamping’s Kids2Kids Christmas initiative has gathered and given almost 300,000 toys to families and groups – and its work is far from over. In fact, this weekend marks yet another holiday season of delivering holiday cheer to kids, from kids, with a duo of free family-friendly events rallying holiday cheer for all as well as holiday gifts for those in need. 

Hosted Dec. 10-11 at the newly built Kacmarcik Center for Human Performance at 885 Badger Circle in Grafton, the two Celebration of Giving events combine old and new Kids2Kids Christmas elements. In addition to the return of the festive light shows of recent years – this time walkable as opposed to a drive-thru – the Celebration of Giving festivities will also bring back the initiative’s original emphasis on kids learning and embracing the act of giving.

While the past two years still featured the annual toy drives, due to pandemic concerns, the more interactive elements of the campaign were shelved in favor of monetary donations – but this weekend’s events will bring a focus back to not just the toys but the physical act of giving.

"The pandemic gave all of us this opportunity to pivot and be creative, and with respect to Kids2Kids, keeping folks in their cars was just a safer option,” said Gretchen Jameson, chief learning officer for the Kacmarcik Center for Human Performance.

“But the heart of Kids2Kids really, for 17 years, has been about giving children a hands-on opportunity to learn generosity, to receive generosity and to work together in the spirit of the season. And we wanted to get back to that. There are so many wonderful, drive-able light shows all over the greater Milwaukee area; what makes Kids2Kids so special is that piece of children being involved with children.”

As a result, the emotional centerpiece of Saturday and Sunday’s Celebrations of Giving will be the “tour of toys.” Found inside the Kacmarcik Center, the tour will allow kids and kids-at-heart to venture through Santa’s workshop, walking amongst thousands of toys collected via Kids2Kids – and, most importantly, bring a new non-wrapped toy of their own to add to the mesmerizing collection. From there, Santa and his elves – who will be in attendance in the “tour of toys” – will accept the gifts and get them ready to deliver to non-profits, charities and families in need this holiday season. 

"Giving is a hands-on way for a child to really experience what this means, it’s developmentally appropriate for a child and it sticks with them,” Jameson said. “I was actually interviewing an individual … and he shared with me that his children still remember – they’re teens now – coming to Kapco’s Days of Giving and giving their toy, even more than they remember the light show drive-in years ago.”

To add to the merry and bright feelings, this weekend’s Celebrations of Giving will feature all sorts of cheer outside the Kacmarcik Center as well – all family-friendly, all free and all festive to the max, complimenting the giving spirit found inside. The celebrations will feature a walk-thru self-guided holiday light show, an ice skating rink, live musical performances throughout the events, kid-friendly arts and crafts activities, and much more merriment to be discovered. 

"I describe it as a Hallmark holiday movie community Christmas festival,” Jameson noted, with a laugh. 

The pair of Celebration of Giving events will take place at 885 Badger Circle from 3-8 p.m. on Saturday as well as from noon until 8 p.m. on Sunday. Admission to the festivities, again, is free but Kapco asks for guests and attendees to bring a new unwrapped toy to donate to the Kids2Kids drive. 

For those unable to make the two-day celebration, there’s no need to have a blue Christmas: Beginning Wednesday, Dec. 14, the walk-thru light show will glow again daily from 5-8 p.m. until Dec. 23. The Kids2Kids initiative will continue collecting toys for charity throughout the season as well, at Kapco’s Grafton headquarters as well as at drop-off locations all around the area. For a full list of drop-off locations, click here

In the end, the goal is to make the holidays special for all children in the community – and to hopefully help the giving spirit live on long after the Christmas spirit’s melted away.

“I’m a parent, and my partner and I would hope that our own children’s participation in this project is something they carry with them out into the rest of the year,” Jameson said.

“And I would hope that our family could talk about what we experience as we give and talk about what that means for us as a family – and what that should look like in our neighborhood and our community. Where could we do a little more? That would be my hope: that kids who go through this experience have someone who talks to them outside of this event about how they can keep that spirit going.”

Matt Mueller Culture Editor

As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.

When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.