Hosts extraordinaire Katie Welch and Jordan Kuker did it again! The 9th Annual Winter Wonderland on December 7th was a star-studded event with generous guests supporting Toys for Tots, a non-profit organization that ensures every child has the opportunity to experience the joy of Christmas.
It’s a cause that’s dear to my heart. Many families are struggling right now to make ends meet, and the pressure of buying Christmas gifts for their children only compounds their financial burden. What an amazing difference events like the 9th Annual Winter Wonderland and organizations like Toys for Tots make for these families and their kids!
This year’s event was once again a gala of who’s who – the influencers, the movers and shakers, the actors and artists and, of course, philanthropists like me. I had the opportunity to chat with some of the guests about their professions, their personal holiday traditions, and their desire to make a difference to young children.
Carter started his acting career when he was very young and landed child actor roles. Now he’s an adult actor starring in a recently released Netflix movie called Happily Ever After – the fourth movie in the After series. You can also see Carter in a Hulu mini-series that previously played on the ABC network, Women of the Movement. The series tells the true story of Emmett Till and his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley.
“I’m really proud of it,” Carter said of the series. “It’s very powerful.”
We won’t give any spoilers here, so be sure to check it out!
Of his long-time career he said that acting has been the longest relationship of his life and, like any relationship, “It takes some work.”
Carter’s take on the holidays
Carter told me the holidays, to him, are all about gratitude, family, and giving back. This year was his third time to attend the Annual Winter Wonderland event benefiting Toys for Tots.
How does he spend the holidays, you ask?
“I grew up Jewish, so the tradition is the Jewish Christmas – seeing movies and getting Chinese food,” he said. “I love that. My favorite thing is that the best movies come out around that time. So the town shuts down, and I’m just at the movies every night”
Follow Carter on Instagram @carterjenkins!
Chaley is a fantastic singer and actor, and she actually provided some entertainment for the evening. After spending her childhood in Indiana, she made her home in Los Angeles 11 years ago.
Chaley is best known for her role as Zoey in ABC’s series Nashville. She also has a Christmas movie out that runs every year on the Hallmark Channel, “A Christmas Duet, “ and a Tubi movie called The Ex Obsession.
Chaley’s take on the holidays
Chaley told me she’s a big fan of Christmas and gets in the holiday spirit early, putting up her tree and turning up Christmas music as soon as it’s generally acceptable to do so, the day after Thanksgiving. If the weather is cold and overcast, even better, as this reminds her of the chilly Christmases spent during her childhood back in Indiana.
“I love the lights, and I love the music. I’ve been listening to the same Backstreet Boys Christmas song for 48 hours,” she said. “They just released a Christmas album for the first time, just one – Same Old Lang Syne. I’ve probably played it 400 times.
This was the second time Chaley has supported kids through the annual Winter Wonderland event.
“It’s nice to be here, and I’m happy to lend my voice,” she explained. “I hope they get a million toys.”
Knowing that there are children whose parents can’t afford to buy them toys at Christmas puts things in perspective, she said, and makes the sad memories of her parents’ divorce overshadowing her own holidays seem trite.
“I lived with my mom and had to split the holidays between my parents,” she shared. “It wasn’t contentious. I actually wanted a custody battle just to feel wanted, but it wasn’t that dramatic.”
Despite her parents’ breakup, Chaley said she has wonderful memories of baking sugar cookies with her mom during the holidays, a tradition that lasts to this day.
“We now have pulled my 4-year-old niece into it. She makes a huge mess,” Chaley laughed. “But my mom makes the most delicious sugar cookies, and she doesn’t even measure anything. We put them in really pretty Christmas tins and give them as gifts. It’s fun to do together. It was always me and my mom, and now it’s me and my mom, plus my little niece. It’s my favorite thing about Christmas.”
Connect with Chaley on Instagram @chaleyrose or find her name on TikTok or Twitter.
Derek Warburton said it all in one simple sentence: “I am here because I love Toys for Tots.”
For Derek, the annual Winter Wonderland’s effort to support parents and their children is deeply personal. Children deserve the best in life, he said. They are, after all, our collective future.
“I was a homeless child and I didn’t have anything. You know, you have to pay it forward. It’s so important,” he said. “I live the most blessed life, but I’ll never forget. You really have to give back when you can.”
Giving back, he said, is an important part of who he is as a person. Derek works with several organizations that support the betterment of children’s lives, including a non-profit called Worthy of Love, which organizes birthday parties and other events for young kids.
“You get to a place in life where you make decisions about how you want to move forward. I made the decision that my blessings feed other blessings,” he explained. “It’s what I chose to do with my life. You know, when you give, you get so much more in return. And it’s a beautiful thing.”
Derek said Toys for Tots holds a special place in his heart because he feels for the children who benefit from the organization’s efforts. Some of them, he explained, come from abusive homes. Others have never before received a Christmas or birthday gift in their entire lives. Making a difference for these kids is what he lives for.
“A little bit of joy goes a long way. They’ll remember that,” he said. “And as they get older, that little bit of joy, they’ll pay it forward.”
Who is Derek Warburton?
This generous man is the publisher of three magazines and owner of Mr. Warburton Media. The magazines are Guru’s Magazine, Mr. Warburton Magazin, and British Thoughts Magazine. He is a busy entrepreneur who recently launched his own makeup line as well, Derek Fabulous.
“All the money from our Equality Collection goes to GLSEN, which helps LGBTQ kids in schools protect themselves against bullying and suicide, and helps develop programs with allies,” he said. “Because we need our allies as much as we need each other.”
Check out Derek on Instagram @derekwarburton.
Jocelyn is an actress who appears in the recently released movie The Fall as well as in a comedy series called Dave on FX, where she plays a Texas girl with a big accent and even bigger hair.
The Canada native said this was her second time to attend the Winter Wonderland event raising gifts on behalf of Toys for Tots.
“It’s a great cause, giving to the kids,” she said. “I enjoy being part of charitable events.”
So what is Jocelyn’s favorite Christmas tradition?
“Definitely stockings. My parents do Christmas stockings every year,” she said. “This year, I’m actually giving them Christmas stockings. It’s nice to include them in the tradition.”
Musician Katie Welch has been an organizer of the Annual Winter Wonderland Toys for Tots charity event for many years. Why does she do it?
“Truthfully, it’s my favorite thing that I do all year and it started out in my backyard as just a way for me and all of my friends to get together and do something good for the world around the holidays,” she explained. “I love charity and doing philanthropic things, but we’re all in different places in our lives. Not everybody can afford to write a check to a big charity that needs it but everyone can afford to buy a toy for a kid that needs it on Christmas. So it was this way to unify everyone under one little thing. Whether you’re a big actor or a catering waiter, we’re all here giving back and doing something to bring a little Christmas spirit to the world.”
For Katie, the holidays mean goodness, gratitude, sharing, music, magic, family and, above all, love. The season, she said, reminds us all of the importance of giving.
“I feel like we really shifted away from that greedy consumerism and people are a lot more connected to each other,” she said. “We’re coming out of that rat race where we wonder ‘What can the world do for me?’ and are starting to realize that a purposeful, meaningful life is about ‘What can I do for the world?’”
What is Katie’s favorite holiday tradition?
“Every Thanksgiving, my whole family has a gingerbread house competition as we’re falling into Christmas. And it gets so cutthroat and hilarious,” she chuckled. “People really pull out all the stops. One of my favorite memories is of my dad and my uncle, who decided to use pretzel sticks and make logs, like a Lincoln Log kind of gingerbread house. They were doing it for hours so we’re like alright – you guys should win just because of all your hard work.”
Find Katie on Instagram @imthekatie, as well as on TikTok and Twitter.
Rhett is a filmmaker and actor whose recent film Jamojaya is heading for Sundance! Despite his busy schedule, and except for a brief Covid break, he has attended the Annual Winter Wonderland event for many years.
“I love coming to this event because there’s obviously kids out there who aren’t as fortunate as everyone else,” he said. “It’s really important now more than ever to really show up and make sure that some underprivileged kids can enjoy their Christmas.”
The holidays, to him, are all about family. And nostalgia. Celine Dion’s Christmas album, especially, evokes fond memories of Christmases spent with his mom, sister, and step-dad. The feeling of spending the holidays with family, he said, just never gets old.
“I’m almost 30, but everytime I hear one of the songs, it just brings me back like a time machine, to the Christmas morning when I’m 7 years old. It was such a great time,” he said. “That’s why this event is so important. Every kid should have the same kind of warm memories about the holidays.”
Connect with Rhett on Instagram @rhettwellington.
This was such a fun, glamorous event and, personally, I can’t wait for the 10th Annual Winter Wonderland Toys for Tots event next year. What could be better than spending an evening surrounded by generous people who truly embody the spirit of giving? A big thank you goes out to the fabulous hosts and the many supporters of this amazing cause.
ICYMI, it’s not too late to support Marine Toys for Tots. The organization is celebrating 75 years of bringing hope to children and families this year. To date, Toys for Tots has distributed more than 627 million toys to more than 281 million children. This incredible opportunity to make an impact will last through late December. And if you miss this year’s deadline…there’s always next year.
Neferteri Plessy is a trailblazer for mom entrepreneurs, business owners and leaders. A sought-after motivational speaker, Neferteri has coached over 5,000 women into living their best life now. As the founder and CEO of Single Moms Planet, a national 501(c)(3) non-profit, she has developed programming, events and resources which have not only uplifted and inspired thousands of mothers, but also celebrated their amazing achievements. She is the creator of the “Smart Mommy” brand, a global movement that empowers mothers in business. Neferteri has been featured in The Huffington Post, BBC News, MSN Lifestyle, KIIS FM, and the cover of LA Weekly.
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