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El Dia (copy)

The annual Día de los Niños celebration takes place Saturday, May 5 at the Goodman Community Center. 

In her day job as Dane County immigration affairs specialist, Fabiola Hamdan works with families facing immigration troubles and regularly witnesses injustice.

So even though it’s a lot of work every year to organize a Día de los Niños celebration, she knows it’s worth it, if only to provide one worry-free day for Latino families in this national political climate, she said.

“To me it’s really, very important to at least have one day where we can celebrate our children,” she said. “It just gives me hope.”

The 15th annual local El Día de los Niños celebration will take place Saturday, May 5, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Goodman Community Center, 149 Waubesa St. The free event is sponsored by CUNA Mutual Group Foundation, Group Health Cooperative, Meriter Hospital, MG&E and UW Health & Unity Insurance.

El Día de los Niños (The Day of the Children), an international holiday focused on children’s appreciation, is celebrated in many cities throughout the U.S.

Hamdan expects about 1,500 attendees at this year’s Madison event, which will provide activities for kids and information about community resources for adults. Hamdan has helped organize the local celebration from the beginning, and this year

Kids can play in bouncy houses, listen to mariachi music, perform for the open mic, get their faces painted, sculpt Play-Doh, take goofy pictures in the photo booth or watch traditional folk dances. There will be free food like tamales and hot dogs, as well as traditional Mexican ice cream.

Artesan Fruit, a local company that carves intricate patterns in melons, will teach kids some of their tricks, Hamdan said. Lifetouch photography will provide kids with IDs that are then connected with Amber Alert.

As always, the day will end with a “Parade of Nations,” as attendees walk through the space holding flags from their Latin American countries.

“You should see how proudly everybody wants to hold the flag,” Hamdan said.

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In Madison, El Día de los Niños is not only a day to celebrate kids, it’s a day to connect their parents to resources.

There will be about 50 social service organizations like Centro Hispano, DAIS, Madison Public Library and Journey Mental Health Center providing information at the event. Hamdan said this year will emphasize immigration assistance resources, hosting immigration lawyers from organizations like the Neighborhood Law Clinic, RISE Law Center and the Community Immigration Law Clinic.

Last year, the event helped families put together a step-by-step emergency plan in case of threat of deportation, creating contingency plans for their bank accounts and children should they have to leave the country unexpectedly.

They won’t be doing emergency plans again this year, though, Hamdan said, because it turned out to be too stressful for what’s supposed to be a joyful family day. Instead, she’ll be working to plan a separate emergency planning day in the future.

“Given the current climate of uncertainty for our Latino families, it is important for us to continue to bring El Día de los Niños event to our community, not only to celebrate our children but to give parents support and share resources,” a press release for the event said. 

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