September 17, 2014

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Former Amherst woman hopes to expand Angels for Kids Foundation

Shanyn McCourt, center, helps children unwrap gifts during the Angels for Kids Foundation’s Christmas party last year at the House of Praise church in Lorain. PHOTO PROVIDED

Shanyn McCourt, center, helps children unwrap gifts during the Angels for Kids Foundation’s Christmas party last year at the House of Praise church in Lorain. PHOTO PROVIDED

SHARON TWP. — A local mother is expanding a charity to provide a Christmas for children who otherwise might not have one.

Shanyn McCourt, 35, who moved to Sharon Township from Amherst this summer, is hoping to spread the word in Medina County to grow her charity, the Angels for Kids Foundation.

McCourt, through the foundation, organizes Christmas parties for children from low-income families that can’t afford much of a Christmas celebration.

The foundation serves children in Northeast Ohio, including Lorain, Trumbull, Mahoning and Cuyahoga counties. She hopes to expand to Medina and Summit counties.

This year, McCourt has 83 children signed up for the party, which will be held Saturday in Lorain.

“All of these kids are either homeless, extremely underprivileged, below poverty level and truly need help,” she said. “Without our assistance, they wouldn’t have a Christmas,” she said.

At the party, the children enjoy food, make crafts, have a visit from Santa Claus, and of course, receive presents.

And, it’s not just one gift, it’s four or five for each child.

“We don’t just get them any gift,” McCourt said. “We get them ‘the gift’ — the one they really want.”

McCourt started Angels for Kids when she was 19, after both her parents and grandparents had died. She said that she was alone on Christmas and was inspired to help others in her situation.

To sign up kids for the parties, she gets referrals from Children’s Services, churches and other community organizations.

She also organizes a “Back to School” event through the foundation, in which she takes children to get a spa makeover and some new outfits at their favorite stores. McCourt lets the kids pick out their outfits. If they want something from Hollister or Abercrombie & Fitch, that’s what they’ll get, she explained.

“We do give them the clothes that they want,” she said. “The purpose of it is so they wear these clothes with confidence.”

The children also are given “swag bags” with shampoo and other products.

Angels For Kids has received attention from several national magazines, including a recent article in Family Circle.

“Ever since that came out, the support has been overwhelming,” she said. “People are asking how they can help us.”

In the future, McCourt hopes to open chapters of the foundation around the country.

Another goal of hers is to establish a vacation home for families who have experienced trauma.

McCourt is seeking sponsors and people to help the foundation grow, as well as referrals of families in need. To contact the Angels for Kids Foundation, call (440) 225-0554 or email shanyn@angelsforkidsfoundation.com.

Contact reporter Kiera Manion-Fischer at (330) 721-4049 or kfischer@medina-gazette.com.