For all the Floridians who missed out on a White Christmas, Saturday’s 4th Annual Snow Party is a chance to escape the record heat this winter and give back to the community.
Hosted at Kirby Family Farm in Williston, Florida, Snow Party has all the facets of the season, including an outdoor ice rink and a snow slide for sledding. Pony rides, a full-sized working train, bounce houses, a Ferris wheel and a carousel will be available – not to mention the more than 50 food and craft vendors.
Dawn Garvis, owner of craft business The Unalome Connection that will sell its gem trees and dream catchers at the event, said she appreciates that it’s geared toward the whole family.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” she said. “I mean, it’s snow in Florida!”
The event starts at 10:30 a.m. Saturday and rolls on until 4:30 p.m. Advance tickets are $12 and $15 at the gate, though admission is free for the first 15 people to donate blood at the LifeSouth Blood Mobile bus present at the event.
Snow Party is run by the Kimberly Morales Memorial Foundation, which Sherry and Jaime Morales created after the death of their 9-year-old daughter Kimberly in a 2019 ATV accident. The foundation is entirely family run and deeply rooted in the Williston community.
Aside from the Snow Party, the foundation gives back to the community with a yearly Christmas toy drive. This year, it was able to raise enough toys for 75 children, compared to 37 last year. It also hosts Kimberly’s Beauty Pageant which doubles as a food drive; admittance is any amount of non-perishable food. The last pageant raised 2,161 food items, all of which were donated to local pantries.
All Snow Party proceeds go to the Kimberly Memorial Foundation’s Scholarship Program, which provides scholarships for colleges, mission trips and dance troupes, among others. Organizers said they raised $13,000 in 2022, and it’s only expected to grow this year.
Sherry Morales, Kimberly’s mother and founder of the foundation, said that living in a small town, Kimberly was well known throughout Williston, and their work receives the community’s full support.
After Kimberly’s passing, Morales and her family knew they wanted to do something meaningful in her name.
“Kimberly was a very giving child,” she said, “We find anywhere where we can give. Doing things in her memory keeps her close to me.”
Even after her passing, Kimberly continued to give.
On Jan. 17, 2019, she saved the lives of four children as an organ donor, donating both her kidneys, her liver and her heart. From that experience, she learned of the pain families face when their child requires an organ transplant.
“A lot of times, those families feel lost and forgotten,” Morales said.
Since then, organ donation became a passion of Morales, and she knew she wanted to include it in her foundation somehow.
For previous Snow Parties, the foundation worked with LifeQuest, an organ donation organization that will have a booth at Snow Party. Her goal is to provide greater resources and education for families with children in need of vital organ transplants. She hopes to expand her work with LifeQuest in future Snow Parties, she said.
Originally, the Morales wanted to create a dance scholarship foundation to honor Kimberly’s love of the art.
Kimberly excelled at any form of dance she put her mind to, Morales said. When she started, Kimberly immediately advanced to higher-level classes and was dancing with middle schoolers while still in fourth grade. Of her favorites was Irish dancing, which will be performed at the event in her memory by her former dance school, Gainesville Dance Academy.
It wasn’t until the family of Kimberly’s friend offered to provide shredded ice from their business, Gainesville Ice Company, that the idea of Snow Party materialized. Then, while planning the first Snow Party, she saw a Facebook post that said, “Snowflakes are kisses from heaven,” and it spoke to her on a deeper level.
“That automatically made me think of my daughter, and I was like, ‘that’s the best slogan for Snow Party.’”
After that first year, Morales was bursting with ideas for future Snow Parties – so much it was slightly overwhelming, she said.
“I was so excited, I was ready to jump mountains,” she said. But her friend Daryl Kirby, owner of Kirby Family Farm where the event takes place, reassured her, “Cross the first hills before you get to the edge of the mountains, and climb the mountains slowly.”
But even as the foundation and its ambitions continue to grow, the pain of losing a child remains the same, Morales said.
“It never gets easy,” she said. “You wake up every single day and the first thought in your mind it ‘she’s not here,’ and the last thought before you fall asleep is ‘she’s not here.’”
She draws much of her resiliency from her family, her faith in God, and the memory of her daughter. On days when getting out of bed is a struggle, Morales said she hears Kimberly saying, “Momma, you got to keep going. Just a few more steps. You can do this.”
Contact Jack Lemnus at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JackLemnus.
Jack Lemnus is a fourth-year journalism major and rural Alachua reporter. He loves to practice his Spanish, fill his bookshelves and gatekeep what he considers underground music.