You’ve probably never heard his name, nor have the thousands of children whose lives are a little bit brighter because of his generosity. So I was thinking it’s well past time I introduced you to Tommy Tapia — the Secret Santa of Halloween.
In October of 1989, I began holding art workshops for children and teens in the beleaguered South Central section of Los Angeles. I hadn’t a clue how to organize such things, and while the L.A. City Parks Department welcomed any supplemental enrichment programs, with city budgets perpetually tight, I had to rely on the kindness of others to make it happen. Happily for me, that’s when I met the Tapia family.
All in the Family
I remember asking the patriarch of the family, Felix Sr. if he wouldn’t mind donating a few pumpkins to our cause — and without hesitation he gave me a thumbs up.
We saw 40 kids attend our first workshop. Most of them were so excited to be given “their own” pumpkin to decorate. But the thing that stands out, and the thing that has driven me to keep these sessions going for nearly a quarter century now, was at the end of the day, when child after child came up to me to ask permission to take their pumpkins home with them. It was a really big deal to them, and a bigger big deal to me. It actually changed my life. And it wouldn’t have happened without the Tapia Brothers.
Most of the pictures you see here are from last week, when Tommy Tapia came through for us again. Only this time it wasn’t 40 pumpkins. See, our little workshop has grown some over the years. On Saturday roughly 350 kids painted their hearts out, and yes, every one of them got to take home their masterpiece. But what they might not know — is that they also took home a little piece of Tommy Tapia’s heart. That’s ok, as he proves to me every year around this time — there is always more where that came from.