15th Annual El Día de los Niños Celebration
at Goodman Community Center
Making Sure Parents and Children are Okay
Members of the El Día de los Niños Committee are (L-R) Jessie Lazo, Norma
Gallegos, Monica Caldwell, Carla Garces, Fabiola Hamdan, Sarah Shatz, Terry
Weaver, and Rissel Sanderson.
children, it has taken on a particular urgency this year with the turmoil surrounding immigration.

“We need to celebrate our Latino community because of the political climate that we are facing right now as immigrants, most specifically Latinos and Muslims,” said
Fabiola Hamdan, the long-time chair of the committee. “I think it is very important for the Latino community to come together to celebrate our children and give the
parents key resources. We are going to emphasize and give information about immigration. We have 3-4 different legal organizations that will be represented and they
will start giving information.”

The event will also feature Life Touch.

“They provide IDs for kids, especially little ones who aren’t in school yet,” Hamdan said. “And they alert the Missing and Exploited Children with the data and the
information if a child gets kidnapped, we can put the picture and the current information on the Amber Alert. And that’s really important because we see all kinds of
stuff happening and our community may not know about it. That’s a very big thing for us to emphasize and promote.”

The day is also about the diversity of the Latino culture.

“It’s nice to see the many people,” said Monica Campbell, training program coordinator for the Latino Academy for Workforce Development. “The kids enjoy the day
with all of the activities that we do. I enjoy seeing how they socialize with each other. And some of the activities are from different cultures, so we learn from different
Latino countries. We don’t necessarily know what happened in Ecuador or Peru. So they can learn a little bit about the different cultures at the same time.”
By Jonathan Gramling

For the past 15 years, El Día de los Niños has almost been a rite of spring on
the first Saturday of May. It is as if the children come out of their cubby holes
and once again run and play outdoors and performing indoors as their parents
learn about community resources.

This year’s event being held on May 5th, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Goodman
Community Center will attract well over 1,000 children and adults for a fun-
filled and educational day.

“All of the information that families can gather is very important because a lot
of families just don’t know about the resources that are out there for them,”
said Terry Weaver, a member of the committee and admissions coordinator for
The Richardson School. “This is just a very good program that allows families
to get out and have a little bit of fun and just be kids and enjoy themselves and
just gather information that they might find useful in the future. I’m hoping that
everyone comes out and has a great time. This is a fantastic event for a lot of
families, especially Latino families. Come out and have some fun.”

While the underlying foundation is support and resources for the parents and
It has also been a tradition for the Latino Academy and Vera Court Neighborhood Center
to provide the food for the festival.

“We hire a student who cooks around 1,000 tamales,” Caldwell said. “They are very
delicious and the student has been doing it for all of these years.”

There is also free Mexican ice cream, raspados, that will also be given away for free.

It’s important to Hamdan and the committee to keep the event free so that all families
can afford to come to the festival.

“The event is all about the kids and resources for their parents because if mom and dad
are okay, the kids are going to be very okay,” Hamdan said. “It’s also a day of coming
out and celebrating with a show. We have groups like Ballet Boliviamanta and dance
classes and different groups who come and dance. It’s just a nice way of really making
community. We’re going to have an open mic where kids can come and sing. It’s an
opportunity to have the parents have a nice time and relax and get key information and
at the same time, have fun with the kids.”

There are many individuals in the Latino community who have grown up with Niños.

“This year, a lot of our volunteers are UW students and a lot of Latino students help,”
Hamdan said. “A little girl who used to come as a niños is now a freshman at UW-
Madison. Now she wants to come as a volunteer.”

As the young ones continue to grow into adulthood and become professionals in the
community, it is Hamdan’s hope that they will pick up the torch of providing the Niños
experience to future generations.

Putting on Niños takes a lot of time and effort. Hamdan feels fortunate that partners like
CUNA Mutual, Group Health Cooperative, Haws Quindel S.C, Meriter Hospital, MG&E,
Safe Communities, Schwab & Charitable, Summit Credit Union, UW Health & Unity
Insurance and UW Health Children’s Hospital have always been there to provide the
financial support needed to put Niños on. And the volunteers on the committee always
know what needs to get done, so it takes little “supervision” on Hamdan’s part.

While it is a lot of work, seeing the children play, laugh and have fun makes it all worth
it to the committee members. It truly is the Day of the Child, El Día de los Niños.