Since this is the season to spread good cheer, we’ll salute the many individuals, families and even children who thrill at the “giving” significance of Christmas — giving their time, their efforts and their joy by collecting gifts for the less fortunate.
Today, we offer good cheer to the community’s extensive benevolence, spotlighting just a few of the many charitable endeavors that bring holiday happiness to others.
▪ One inspirational story unfolded last week at teacher Sandra Patterson second-grade class at Manatee Elementary School. Last year she turned around the behavior of a difficult student simply by giving the boy new shoes, his first new pair in two years.
Patterson told this story to a friend, Lynne Callahan, who then rallied her coworkers at Michael Saunders and Company to purchase some footwear, and with colleague Lisa Morrison, the two presented new shoes to every student in the class, all 17, on Tuesday.
Just as telling if not more so, Patterson recognized how disadvantaged the kids are when she gave each one a pillow — and one student asked her how to use it. A poignant moment, for sure.
Kudos to Patterson, a shining reflection of teachers dedicated to their pupils, and also to all the elves at Michael Saunders.
▪ Here’s a tale of sudden motivation and a swift response. Robby Hukill, an insurance underwriter by day and a helper in a family-owned business, Toughenuff, by night, came up with an idea to give needy children new bicycles just a few weeks ago. His family gives back to the community annually, so this fit his background.
Hukill contacted Sgt. Keith Wallace of the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, who then helped organize the Bikes for Tykes effort. Hukill’s motive in contacting law enforcement was to build connections between the kids and the cops.
Somehow they managed to collect 100 bicycles, contact some agencies and schools, gather up lists of selected families, and then match the bike to the child — all in a few weeks.
Most of the kids, ages 3 to 13, and their families scooped up those bicycles Tuesday night at the sheriff’s office with bagpipers performing carols while hot dogs and ice cream filled tummies.
The logistics of that swift effort would challenge the best planners among us. Should Bikes for Tykes advance to next year, Wallace vows an earlier start on organizing. Good idea.
Cheers to Hukill and Wallace and everyone else involved in this big effort, one that put smiles on a lot of faces.
▪ The Palma Sola VFW 10141 Auxiliary treated 51 children to toys, lunch and holiday cheer — with Santa in attendance — at its second annual Children’s Christmas Party. All the kids sat with Santa before more than $5,000 in gifts were handed out.
Each child, invited through the Christ Chapel Homeless Ministry, not only received at least two presents but also left with a new outfit. The VFW club also distributed backpacks, blankets, toothpaste and toothbrushes, everyday items most of us take for granted. The homeless do not.
Every kid also left with party with at least a dozen cookies.
“It’s all about the kids to begin with,” Kathy Zuckerman, senior vice president of the auxiliary club, told the Herald. “I don’t care where the kids come from or what religion they are, it’s just to watch them come up and see Santa.”
Indeed, Christmas should be delightful for children. Kudos to the Palma Sola VFW 10141 Auxiliary for this outpouring of compassion for disadvantaged kids.
▪ There are more, many more community crusades to bring seasonal joy to underprivileged children. Last week, the Manatee County School District’s annual Giving Tree drive, which asks individuals and organizations to donate personalized gifts, handed out some 1,000 presents to 410 students from 146 families. The Salvation Army’s Adopt-A-Family Program served presents to about 3,000 children from 600 families.
Then there are other large and well established gift-giveaways, ranging from the Marine Corps Toys for Tots and the Bradenton Police Department’s Honor the Badge. Smaller efforts abound, too, such as the Gator Lounge in Bradenton spreading joy by giving 67 kids brand new bicycles.
Cheers to all this heartwarming generosity. And Merry Christmas.