Jayna Burris didn’t spent a lot of time in foster care before she was adopted when she was 3.
But the 7-year-old Finley girl has never forgotten the roughly 350 Mid-Columbia children still in the foster system.
For three years, she’s worked with her mother to gather Christmas gifts — about 1,000 each season. This year, she’s collected more than 1,300 gifts.
Instead of turning them over to a nonprofit to distribute, Jayna and her family plan their own foster family Christmas party in Finley on Friday.
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The Christmas party and gift event is 6 to 8 p.m. at Finley Community Church, 201512 E. Finley Road. There will be an appearance by Santa, hot chocolate, giveaways, socializing, a gift-wrapping station and other festivities. It’s open to all Mid-Columbia foster families, though participants are asked to show verification.
Jayna was only a year old when she was placed into foster care and 2 when she went to live with the Burris family in Finley, joining two older brothers, now 13 and 17, also adopted from the foster system.
Jayna’s foster home experience was a loving one and Christmas gifts were abundant both before and after she was adopted. But Jayna knew from a very young age that isn’t always the case.
This year’s collection of toys, books and other donations are stacked in her family’s dining room.
I want foster kids to have a present.
Jayna Burris, Finley student
“I want foster kids to have a present,” she explained shly.
Shyness is an unusual trait for the second grader at Finley Elementary School.
“She has always had a giving heart,” said her mother, Natausha Burris.
She and her husband, Jason, turned to the foster system after they were unable to have their own children.
For Jayna, being adopted simply means she has a family.
“I like having brothers,” she said.
The Christmas campaign has been a mother-daughter tradition, promoted on Facebook, through requests to local schools and by standing outside a consignment shop in Kennewick, Children’s Attic, asking shoppers for contributions.
Jayna’s gift drive also is supported by Buxbaum Family Chiropractic and Studio One Salon, both in Kennewick. Finley Community Church, the family’s place of worship, donated the space for the event.
Until now, Jayna’s Christmas gift collection has been informal but Natausha Burris said she wants to form a nonprofit to ensure it continues for future Christmases.
Any leftover items will be given to the Tri-City Union Gospel Mission.