Jump on the Bus: An idea to give foster kids a Christmas to remember

KISSIMMEE, Fla. – For hundreds of foster children, Christmas Day is not always joyful.

And that’s why one Central Florida woman created Jump on the Bus.

“I realized that there was such a big population of foster youth in care that don’t have anything to do on Christmas Day," said Penny Jones, the director of The Penny Project, a nonprofit organization that advocates for kids in the Central Florida foster care system. “I started thinking, how could we celebrate together?”

Six years ago, Penny’s sense of solidarity and empathy started bringing smiles to Central Florida children in foster care -- and as part of her work on The Penny Project, she created Jump on the Bus.

“Jump on the Bus was so contagious, was so phenomenal the first year, I knew immediately we (needed) to do it every year," Jones said. "We travel around Central Florida picking up foster youth. I think the beauty is, we get to create our own special Christmas family.”

News 6 caught up with this year’s Christmas family of about 150 foster kids and chaperones as they arrived at Gaylord Palms resort on four buses.

“We have a different dynamic every year,” Jones said. “There’s a grandma here that is a relative caregiver of a whole bunch of babies on my bus."

The fun-filled day was spent visiting ICE, which, this year had a theme involving “The Polar Express” holiday movie. The kids also were expected to enjoy time at Fun Spot and Kings Bowl.

“It means a lot because a lot of kids don’t have this kind of thing,” said Taj Banks, a former foster child who Penny still provides some joy to. “Even families that have kids -- they can’t celebrate a Christmas Day like us, you know, and it gives us a really good joy."

Added Jones, “There’s a beauty in Christmas. And if you look around, there are people around you that need to be loved.”

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