My Favorite Holiday Tradition: Making Myriads of Kids Smile

To me, the holidays are all about the kids. At some point, we all reach the age when our parents have to get us up to open presents rather than the other way around. And once you reach this age, the holidays are a lot more fun when there are little kids around.

One of the accomplishments I am most proud of revolves around the holidays and kids (though not my own kids).

In December of 1984, my senior year of high school, I helped start a tradition in my hometown of New Castle, Indiana. My sociology class was going to “adopt” a family for Christmas, and we were all going to donate money to buy them food and toys. While I was all for it, I had what I thought was an even better idea.

I proposed to my teacher – and my mother – that instead of adopting one family, each student in my class would adopt one of the children in my mother’s Head Start class. The very first time we did this was in my senior year, and I baked cookies and bought candy canes for each and every one of the children. We had a volunteer dressed as Santa Claus, and my classmates bought these underprivileged kids – who otherwise would not have received much of anything for Christmas – toys, bikes, footballs, and all kinds of goodies.

Over the years, as my mom went to conventions and met other Head Start teachers, she kept spreading the word about what we did. The last I heard, there are over 25 classes doing it throughout the Midwest.

That first time, in 1984, I could have never guessed how it would catch on. The programs in New Castle now have corporate sponsors that buy the children clothes (and other things too). The entire high school is involved, not just the Social Studies department. And most of the local Head Start kids are adopted by two or three high school kids.

The last time I was able to make it back for the party, they had to hold it in an elementary school gym in order to fit in all the Head Start kids and the high school kids. The pre-schoolers were walking out with armloads of “stuff.” To see the smiles on their faces was an incredible feeling. To know that my mother and I started this tradition makes it that much more gratifying. Every time I think about it, I want to schedule a trip back home for Christmas so I can be there. And I get a little choked up thinking about how many kids this has positively affected over the years.

As the Oak Ridge Boys say in their Christmas classic, “Thank God for kids.”

[Ed. Note: What’s your favorite holiday tradition? Let us know right here.]

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