For 25 years, a holiday-themed breakfast has raised money to help the Kansas Children’s Service League promote and protect the well-being of children in Shawnee County.
This year’s Red Stocking Breakfast will be from 7:30 to 10:30 a.m. Saturday at Carlos O’Kelly’s, 3425 S. Kansas Ave. Tickets are $15 in advance and $18 at the door, with children age 10 and younger eating free of charge.
“It’s become a Christmas and community tradition for so many people,” said Gail Cozadd, KCSL’s east region program director.
This year’s honorary co-chairs are Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt and his wife, Jennifer Schmidt. Derek Schmidt has volunteered as a celebrity server at the event in the past, and his wife is a former KCSL board member.
Lee Walker, KCSL’s north central area development manager, said the Red Stocking Breakfast is “KCSL’s statewide signature event.”
In addition to Topeka, other Red Stocking Breakfasts are planned from Dec. 2 to 9 in Emporia, Hutchinson, Wichita and the Kansas City metro area. All of the money raised stays in the local community where each breakfast is hosted.
Proceeds from the Red Stocking Breakfast in Topeka will help support child abuse and neglect prevention services in Shawnee County.
Kansas Children’s Service League, which will mark its 125th anniversary in 2018, serves children from birth to age 18 and their families in all different stages of their lives and their involvement in the foster care system. KCSL serves about 40,000 children and their families each year in Kansas, with about 5,000 in Shawnee County.
Q: What part does Carlos O’Kelly’s play in the Red Stocking Breakfast?
Lee Walker: If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t have Red Stocking. They really care about this event.
Gail Cozadd: We have no cost associated with this breakfast. So, Carlos O’Kelly’s donates their staff time (and) the restaurant. We don’t have to pay for the venue. They work with their food vendor, who donates all of the food.
Q: How much money was raised from last year’s Red Stocking Breakfast?
Walker: Over $26,000 was raised. We had a sponsorship goal of $25,000, so I think we’ll hit $30,000 with ticket sales and day of (ticket sales) this year.
Cozadd: It all stays here locally in Shawnee County.
Q: Where do the funds go to or help support?
Walker: Our programs. Child abuse prevention programs like Healthy Families, which is an intensive weekly home visitation program for parents of newborns. This program can begin prenatally and will last up to the child being 3 years old typically.
Cozadd: It focuses on child development, parenting skills, stabilizing their own life — whether that is helping them get a job or finishing school or whatever their kind of goals are that will make sure they’re successful and their child is successful as they continue to grow.
Walker: Another program that benefits greatly is the Period of PURPLE Crying (program) through the National Shaken Baby Prevention Association to prevent shaken babies.
Cozadd: The other program it supports is our Center for Restorative Education … a program that we partner with Washburn Rural, Shawnee Heights and Topeka Public Schools. It’s a program for students who have been long-term suspended or expelled. It has turned into a credit recovery program, so that they don’t get further behind. They are able to continue their academic learning. We serve about 50 to 60 kids every year from those three school districts.
Q: How many attended last year’s event?
Walker: (Last year,) 490 attended. … I’m hoping that we’re going to see more. I know that we’ve ordered more tickets.
Q: What types of breakfast foods will be served?
Walker: Ham suiza, sausage, bacon, scrambled eggs — both the plain and the dressed-up version — with all the fixin’s, potatoes, breakfast burritos, water, coffee, OJ (orange juice).
Q: What types of activities or entertainment will be on hand?
Walker: Santa. Curtis Sneden, (Greater) Topeka Chamber (of Commerce) executive vice president, is a magical entertainer. Bo the Clown and elves. We will also have celebrity servers. … They include elected officials, media, law enforcement, fire department personnel and community leaders. We have three one-hour shifts, so they serve a one-hour shift at 7:30, 8:30 and 9:30 a.m. The celebrity servers love to do it, too.
Q: How many volunteers are there?
Walker: We have about 20 people on KCSL’s Community Leadership &Development Council. They solicit sponsorships. They coordinate the celebrity servers, and they serve and clean up.
We’re there as a support to them and support their efforts.
Contact features writer Jessica Cole at (785) 295-5628.