31st annual Christmas in the City held in Boston

BOSTON — “Every kid that comes in here will remember this for a life time,” said Sparky Kennedy, co-founder of Christmas in the City.

And so they came. Some 4,000 kids with one thing in common: homelessness. For the 31st time Christmas in the City made sure they weren't forgotten.

“These kids are fighting every day,” Sparky said. “They have a day they can just play and not have to worry about anything.”

Jake and Sparky Kennedy started Christmas in the City as a way to get their own two kids to appreciate all the gifts they were getting at Christmas by giving to others.

“We started with Boston,” Jake said. “We figured we could cover all the homeless shelters in Boston.”

That was back in 1989. Today, Christmas in the City invites homeless families across eastern Massachusetts to the Boston Convention Center.

There were gifts, a Santa and even an indoor amusement park.

There was also some sad news: Jake Kennedy was recently diagnosed with ALS.

“We're grateful for him and we're going to continue to be,” said Boston Mayor Marty Walsh. “I said to him we're going to be here for a long [time], many years, many years after this at this event.”

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You couldn't pull off something as huge as Christmas in the City if it weren't for the help of volunteers. A couple of dozen work on the event year-round and, on the big day, about 2500 volunteers are there to help.

Among them, a contingent of teens from a Medfield catholic church.

“We've got 80 students, 9th and 10th graders,” said Anna Mae O’Shea Brooke, a volunteer. “It's important for them to witness these families that need our support.”

Families down, but some maybe not so low that they can't see what's important at Christmas.

“This is probably one of the most emotional times for everybody, so for me to be here with my girls means everything,” said Rochely Cruz, a guest at Christmas in the City. “And I'm really grateful for that.”

Christmas was born in a manger and, at some point, was stolen by a grinch. On Sunday, thousands found it in the city once again.