Bright Holidays Party

Bright Holidays History

Bright Holidays, a recognized public charity, helps underprivileged students and families in the greater Jacksonville, FL area during the holiday season, which, for many, is often a difficult time of year. Bright Holidays raises funds locally and works with school principals in the community to identify those in need of clothing, food, school supplies and other necessities. Unlike other charities and foundations, Bright Holidays operates on a seasonal basis, relies solely on volunteer efforts and operates with no fixed expenses.

Bright Holidays, founded in 2003, became a public charity in 2006 upon recognition as a 501(c)(3) corporation by the Internal Revenue Service. Sylvia Johnson, principal of Eugene J. Butler Middle School and former principal of West Jacksonville Elementary School inspired the concept and John Forrester, a local business executive, founded the organization. Inaugural efforts, before the establishment of any organization or certification by the IRS, raised approximately $15,000 which benefited nearly 200 elementary school students and their families. Since becoming a 501(c)(3) organization, Bright Holidays has grown by 500%, reaching well over 800 students and their families in recent years.

Today, Bright Holidays has a functioning Board of Directors comprised of local business leaders and educators. In addition, Bright Holidays has recruited volunteer workers and enjoys relationships with local professional firms to provide pro bono accounting, communications, legal and technology services. As a result of its volunteer Board and these relationships, Bright Holidays requires no operating capital and can use 100% of monies raised to help those in need of assistance.

Bright Holidays 2016 Summary

Bright Holidays served 811 children in 2016. Our faculty partners at 42 local schools identified the families most in need. We provided for every child in those families. The schools were primarily located in Duval County, but also included a few from neighboring counties.

Each child received these gifts:

  • Shirt, Pants, Underwear, Jacket, Shoes, Socks
  • Book
  • Toy
  • Sleeping Bag
  • Winn-Dixie Grocery gift card to the family ($50-250 depending on family size)

All items were new. The clothes were purchased based on sizes provided by the parents. The book was to the child's reading level. The toys came from toy drives, and were age and gender appropriate. The sleeping bags are known to often serve as the child's bed.


Bright Holidays raised $86,467 in cash donations and in-kind merchandise and services. 69% of our 2015 donors joined us again in 2016, and of those who repeated, 82% matched or exceeded their prior-year contribution.

Cash Donations of $2,000 or more

  • Neviaser Foundation
  • Thomas M & Irene Kirbo Foundation
  • Steven & Elaine Wyman
  • Warren & Augusta Hume Foundation
  • Klaus Wenger
  • Christine Shreve / Thomas Bowersox
  • Frances King

Cash Donations of $1,000-$1,999

  • Baptist Medical Center
  • Aurrelious Been
  • TJ Fraser
  • Catherine Graham
  • William Green
  • Karl Hanson II
  • Anne Wong Holloway
  • Melanie Husk
  • Charles Hyman / Janet Healey
  • Dean McQuiddy
  • Pete Parsons
  • Regency Electric Company
  • Mr & Mrs Mike Roudi
  • Sargent Cycle Products / Mark Todd
  • Sawgrass Asset Management
  • Darnell Smith
  • Ellen & Gerard Sullivan

Cash Donations under $1000

92 additional donors contributed $21,130. This group is just as greatly appreciated, as they represent nearly 25% of funds raised

Donations of services, merchandise & discounts

  • Providence School [toys]
  • Winn-Dixie [gift card discounts]
  • Academy Sports - Southside [various]
  • Walmart - Beach & Hodges [various]
  • Gist Create [website]
  • Pivot CPA [taxes]
  • Avison Young [warehouse]
  • Crocker Partners [warehouse]
  • Lynette Benton [database]
  • Eavenson, Fraser & Lunsford [printing]
  • Melissa Ross / WJCT [publicity]
  • Florida Times-Union [publicity]


Three categories of volunteers drove the operation.

(1) 42 Bright Holidays faculty representatives performed multiple tasks: they identified the families in need, obtained parental permissions, gathered the children's clothing sizes from the parents, entered this data into our database, managed the wrapping of gifts, and facilitated the delivery of gifts to families. Their Principals supported it all.

(2) Our major shoppers, who purchased a total of more than 8,000 items:

  • Leigh Forrester
  • Hannah Hawkins
  • Lindsay Hoffman
  • Frances King
  • Mike Shreve
  • Paige Wagner

(3) Approximately 250 additional volunteers performed miscellaneous tasks such as shopping, moving, counting, sorting, and wrapping gifts. These included significant efforts by:

  • Camille Gregg
  • Melanie Husk
  • Sylvia Johnson
  • Jason & Kathryn Kelly
  • Atsuko Mason family
  • Pat McNerney
  • Todd Miller
  • Becca Myers
  • Regina Regan
  • Carolyn Sizemore family
  • Holly Swantek

Thank You Letters from our Schools and Families

As in prior years, we received many thank you notes from students, their parents and school administrators; please find samples attached (with names removed).

In the News

Participating Schools

Elementary Schools

  • Arlington Elementary
  • Arlington Heights Elementary
  • Brentwood Elementary
  • Carter G. Woodson Elementary
  • Cedar Hills Elementary
  • Chet's Creek Elementary
  • Englewood Elementary
  • Garden City Elementary
  • Gregory Drive Elementary
  • Hyde Grove Elementary
  • Hyde Park Elementary
  • John A. Crookshank Elementary
  • John E. Ford Elementary
  • John Love Elementary
  • Kings Trail Elementary
  • Lake Forest Elementary
  • Neptune Beach Elementary
  • Oak Hill Elementary
  • Pickett Elementary
  • Pinedale Elementary
  • Ramona Elementary
  • Reynolds Lane Elementary
  • Rufus E. Payne Elementary
  • Ruth N. Upson Elementary
  • RV Daniels Elementary
  • Sadie T. Tillis Elementary
  • St. Clair Evans Elementary
  • Sallye B. Mathis Elementary
  • San Jose Elementary
  • Southside Estates Elementary
  • S. P. Livingston Elementary
  • Starke Elementary
  • Susie Tolbert Elementary
  • Windy Hill Elementary

Middle Schools

  • Alfred Dupont Middle
  • Matthew Gilbert Middle
  • Young Women & Men Leadership Academy

High Schools

  • Andrew Jackson High
  • Douglas Anderson
  • William M. Raines High

Special Education

  • North Florida School of Special Education

The Board of Directors anticipates that this list of schools will change over time based on the success of fund-raising efforts and the identification of those in need.