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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 11, 2003

First family hosts first-ever Christmas tree lighting ceremony at Old State Capitol
Urges Illinoisans to participate in Keep Our Kids Warm and Safe campaign to help needy children around the state Kicks off Boys and Girls Club of Springfield’s Holiday Wish List activity

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich, First Lady Patti Blagojevich and their two daughters, Amy and Annie, today joined with children from the Boys and Girls Club of Springfield to help usher in the holiday season at the state’s first tree lighting ceremony at the historic Old State Capitol.
 
The First Family and the children watched as nearly 7,500 bulbs illuminated a donated 27-feet Douglas Fir positioned on the lawn of the Old State Capitol in downtown Springfield.
 
Blagojevich also invited guests at the special ceremony to join in the Governor’s holiday giving campaign, Keep Our Kids Warm and Safe, which will provide car seats and winter clothing accessories to needy families throughout the state.
 
“Holidays are all about families and giving,” the Governor said. “I’m here with my family to share the holiday spirit with you and your families as we light this tree.  And, at the same time, I want to encourage Illinois residents to share their good fortune with the less fortunate during this festive season through my Keep Our Kids Warm and Safe campaign.”
 
Keep Our Kids Warm and Safe will give 1,000 child safety seats to families who receive TANF, KidCare and Food Stamp assistance, and deliver new and laundered pre-owned children’s mittens, gloves, hats and winter scarves to homeless shelters around the state. State agencies, such as the Illinois Department of Human Services and the Illinois Department of Public Health, will work to collect the items through Jan. 2 at various collection points; Americorps volunteers will help to sort the donated items.
 
In the spirit of the holiday giving tradition, this year’s tree lighting ceremony also kicked off the Boys and Girls Club of Springfield’s Holiday Wish List activity.  The campaign will provide approximately 800 Boys and Girls Club of Springfield members with a holiday gift listed on a wish list created by the children of the club.
 
 Those interested in participating in the Boys and Girls Club of Springfield’s Holiday Wish List campaign can pick up an ornament with a child’s name, age and wish list gift idea between Dec. 11–21 at several locations including the Springfield Old State Capitol, the Boys and Girls Club of Springfield’s Central Unit, located at 300 S. 15th St., the Springfield Racquet & Fitness Center, Carrollton Bank and Central Illinois Bank. 
 
The public may also sign up by phone to purchase a gift for a child by calling the Boys & Girls Club of Springfield at 544-0548, Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., Dec. 11-19.   All gifts must be dropped off at the Boys & Girls Club of Springfield’s Central Unit or the Springfield Racquet & Fitness Center in gift bags by December 22 at 5:00 p.m. Members of the Boys & Girls Club of Springfield will receive their gifts just in time for holidays at an Open House on Dec. 23.
 
The Boys & Girls Club of Springfield annually serves more than 1,800 children at nine sites in Springfield, including seven locations operated in partnership with Springfield School District #186 through the 21st Century Community Learning Center program. 
 
Boys & Girls Clubs provide holistic out-of-school programs for youth aged 6-18, which includes educational, character and life-skill building programs, in addition to arts and recreational activities.  All programs are designed according to the Boys & Girls Clubs comprehensive youth development strategy, which seeks to inspire and enable all young people, especially those from disadvantaged circumstances, to realize their full potential as productive, responsible and caring citizens.
 
Contributing to the holiday sound at the tree lighting were the Sacred Heart-Griffin High School Band, the Williamsville High School Madrigals, and carolers from the Abundant Faith Christian Chorus and the First General Baptist Church. Santa Claus joined in the festivities, as well, by checking twice the holiday wish list made by children of the club. 
 
Those who helped make the tree lighting a success included the Illinois Nurserymen’s Association and Boehm’s Garden Center in Rushville, which donated the tree; Green View Nursery of Springfield, which provided the large wreath displayed on the side of the Old State Capitol; and holiday refreshments provided by area restaurants and bakeries, including Andiamo, Jubelt’s Bakery, Incredibly Delicious and the Cookie Factory. 
 
The public may contribute to the Governor’s campaign, Keep Our Kids Warm and Safe, by dropping off items at the Governor’s Offices in the state Capitol and the James R. Thompson Center in Chicago; the Executive Mansion, 410 E. Jackson St. in Springfield; and local Illinois Department of Human Services offices throughout the state.
 
People my also contribute by sending a check or money order to: Illinois Department of Public Health, Office of Health Promotion, 535 W. Jefferson St., Springfield, IL 62761, Attention:  Fiscal Operations. The check or money order should be made out to the Illinois Department of Public Health with a notation that the donation is for the Keep Our Kids Warm and Safe campaign.
 
“I wish everyone a warm and safe holiday season,” the Governor said. “Your contribution is a generous way for us to make the season a little brighter, warmer and safer for thousands of less fortunate children and parents around the state.” 
 
 


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