SNOHOMISH — It is a season of firsts for Candy Bishop and her son, David.
It was the pair’s first time at The Farm, a homestead with chickens, a zebra and a host of other animals.
They had never before sipped warm drinks together while a group of cowboy carolers serenaded them with twangy Christmas tunes.
And for the first time, Bishop, 48, wished David, 10, a Merry Christmas while her eyes and breath were clear of alcohol and drugs.
“David’s never really had a Christmas until this year because I’ve been so caught up in addiction,” Bishop said as her son swung a black balloon sword in the air.
The Bishops checked into the Union Gospel Mission in Seattle three months ago. On Sunday, they were among 400 people who, bused in from shelters in King, Snohomish and Skagit counties, enjoyed “Miracle on 92nd Street,” a Christmas celebration held each year at The Farm, a working animal farm located, of course, on 92nd Street SE in Snohomish.
It was The Farm’s fifth “Miracle” event, and the largest yet. Last year, four buses brought families to The Farm. This year, there were 10 buses and vans, said Bruce Karr, who bought the land 12 years ago from his grandmother, who had lived there since the 1920s.
“Miracle” is just one event in a string that lasts all year, Karr said. Children who live at local homeless and domestic violence shelters flock to The Farm for carnivals and parties where they can experience a pony ride, dash through a petting zoo or see a clown show. Karr said he has been planning events for 12 years, since doctors told him he had only one week to live.
“I was waiting for a heart transplant, but I never got one,” he said. “They just sort of patched me up, and I’ve been living on borrowed time for 12 years.”
Since then, Karr has coordinated donors and volunteers for an endless schedule of events for families who are trying to escape violence and addiction. When donations don’t cover costs, Karr said he dips into his own pockets. On Sunday, children unwrapped toys and feasted on turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes that cost The Farm between $10,000 and $12,000, Karr said.
The Forgotten Children’s Fund donated 16,000 clothing items that were rejected by retailers for minor defects, which were then repaired by hand by an army of volunteers. Volunteers of America donated 2,000 books, which were wrapped and labeled for age and gender.
“These kids, if they get educated, it doesn’t matter whether they came from a shelter. They’ll be all right,” Karr said.
Each child who attended “Miracle” received a bright red plastic bag (bought at a deep discount from Target, said Pam Walsh, a board member for The Farm) that was stuffed with two or three toys, a new outfit, a hoodie sweatshirt, a hat, globes and a book.
More than 200 volunteers, from local Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops, churches, softball leagues and other groups, served food and distributed the gifts.
“The kids feel they’ve had a real Christmas,” Walsh said, but added that there is more to the day than the gifts.
“This is a safe place,” Walsh said as she stood near a field where children played Frisbee in the frigid winter air. “The moms can sit back and relax while the kids run and play.”
For some moms, like Bishop, watching out for a child was also a first.
Bishop said her drug addiction began before she was in high school.
“I didn’t know how much my addiction was affecting my son, but I also didn’t know life could be like this,” Bishop said, glancing around at red bags filled with gifts, heaping plates of food and hundreds of childlike grins. “I didn’t know there were people out there who would give a whole day just to help another human being.”
Reporter Krista J. Kapralos: 425-339-3422 or email@example.com.