Hillsides Employee Redefines the Meaning of Regifting to Bring Joy to Children in Foster Care

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Hillsides employee passes along a gift of Disneyland passes worth thousands to to the children where she works.

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“I got excited just thinking of how excited they’d be,” she said.

Regifting has a bad name.

If a present has been recycled, it’s usually something undesirable.

Not so for the 10 girls who live at the Canyon Cottage at Hillsides residential therapeutic treatment program in Pasadena.

They are the beneficiaries of a very appealing pass-along gift -- $2,000 for tickets to Disneyland.

And all because of the generosity of a Hillsides employee.

Micaela Tracy, 25, has worked at Hillsides for a year. A former video editor with a degree in film production from Arizona State, Tracy became interested in child welfare when she directed a film, Una Luz, about orphanages in El Salvador.

“This made me realize how much I care about children, so I decided to change careers,” she said.

Tracy applied to a job opening at Hillsides as a residential childcare counselor at Canyon Cottage, and got the job. Right off the bat, “I knew this was the right field for me,” she says. Her heart went out to the girls, ranging in ages from 12 - 19, who had suffered numerous traumas, including abuse and abandonment. Working with them, she also found the best part of herself.

“I have become more empathetic, patient, and understanding not just at work but in all aspects of my life,” said Tracy, who plans on one day pursuing a master’s degree in social work.

Like many others, Tracy and her husband Aaron love Disneyland. For the past two years, her in-laws have given the couple season passes to the theme park, for a total value of $2,000.

This year, when it came time for Tracy’s in-laws to renew the passes, Tracy started thinking that maybe she didn’t need to visit the Magic Kingdom for the umpteenth time. Instead she knew a few others who might really enjoy such an outing: the girls in the cottage.

“I got excited just thinking of how excited they’d be,” she said.    

She asked her mother-in-law, Kathryn Tracy, if she’d skip the passes this year and instead donate the money to the girls to fund a day at Disneyland, and her mother-in-law immediately agreed.

“I was overwhelmed with Micaela’s selflessness,” she said. “We were so happy to support her and all the good things Hillsides is doing.”

The trip to Anaheim is set to happen in a few weeks. The girls are counting the days, and so is Tracy, whose one stipulation was that she share the experience with them.

Despite being a fan of regifting, that’s one present she decided to save for herself.

Hillsides Residential Treatment Services program is one of Hillsides four core programs. Hillsides, founded in 1913, is a premier provider of child welfare services serving more than 6,200 children, youth, and families throughout Los Angeles County, including Echo Park, Baldwin Park, and the San Gabriel Valley. For more information on Hillsides, please visit http://www.hillsides.org.

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Alison Bell
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