Tag Archives: Christmas spirit

The Christmas Spirit: One Last Story

Okay, I know I said I was done with my stories about the Christmas spirit, and I was until I saw this video from CNN News on another young child who is giving back in an amazing way.

This is the story of Riley Norris from South Carolina, who is a 9-year old with an inspirational story. When Riley was only three months old she had to have emergency open-heart surgery. She recovered and appears very healthy today. Her mother, Leslie Norris, reports that Riley announced to her recently on the way to school that she had a good idea; she would like to gather up all of the birthday gifts she had received this year and deliver them to patients in the hospital where she had been operated on herself.

And that is exactly what they did. With the help of her parents, they returned to MUSC Children’s Hospital in Charleston, South Carolina, with a big, red bag filled with gifts to pass out to the young patients who were there. Riley’s wish was to give her presents specifically to children who had the same type of surgery she had had as a baby.

Her parents, Leslie and Lance, expressed their pride in Riley’s desire to give back to needy children. Leslie said she knew her daughter was special, but was still amazed at her generosity. She remarked that as parents, it is what you would want to see your child do. And Lance expressed his pride and also his happiness over just how far she has come since she was a three-month old baby with a serious heart condition. He recalls that the girl whose life was at one point in jeopardy is now thriving and giving back.

What a little miracle! Our hearts can’t help but expand as we hear about this little girl whose once damaged heart is now so full of love for others.

Thank you for allowing me to share these beautiful stories with you. God bless Jessica, the Garrick family, Justin, and Riley for expanding our hearts a little more this Christmas season. Merry Christmas to you and my heartfelt wish for a hopeful, joyful, and truly generous New Year.

The Christmas Spirit: Justin’s Bears

Well, I have saved the best for last. Let me tell you another story from CBS News about an eight-year old that hopefully will warm your heart as much as he has mine.

Justin Martin, from Newark, NJ, received a Build-a-Bear bear three years ago and couldn’t help but wonder if every child in the world had a bear like his. When his father, Quin told him that not all children did, Justin began to raise money to remedy the situation.

Not only did he raise the money to give away a thousand bears his first year to sick and needy children, he actually worked to build, dress, package, and deliver each bear he lovingly gave away. To date, he has given away 2,000 bears to children in his community. When he was asked what felt better; the presents he received at Christmas or the ones he gave away, he quickly responded, “The bears that I give. I don’t know why.”

Though what he does is clearly a labor of love, it is a very challenging project. Aside from the hard work it takes to make each bear at a local Build-a-Bear workshop which provides his bears at a discount, he has to raise $25,000 each year to meet his goal. Can you imagine an eight-year old working to raise such a large amount of money annually?

Quin says of his son: “Whatever he does he just has a big heart, he goes at it very, very hard.”

And Justin told reporters, “It’s fun yeah to go around and give bears to less fortunate children,” Thank you, Justin, for teaching us the true meaning of Christmas this year, and keep up the good work!

(If you are interested in helping this young man, you can find out more information at Justin Charity Bear Fund.)

The Christmas Spirit: Meet the Garrick Family

This is the second in my series about the true Christmas spirit, another CBS News story from Redwood City, California, about a family who helps their community in a very special way at Christmas.

George Garrick is in the business of Christmas trees only instead of selling them, he gives them away to needy families in his community, and he has help from his wife, Lainie, and their children, William, Jonathan, and Vic who share in the venture by lugging trees to cars. What has become a Christmas tradition for this family began three years ago when they heard about a family who couldn’t afford a tree for Christmas. According to George, “For a lot of these families to go and pay $60, $70, or $80 for a tree at a commercial lot – they just can’t do it.” Through their organization, called “Trees of Joy” they are able to give away 500 trees at Christmas.

But that’s not all they do. They also provide the ornaments, the stands, and the hooks. According to Lainie Garrick, “We have to make sure they go home with it all decorated.” And they make sure the trees are only going to families who are really deserving by working with a representative from the city’s support programs for low-income families.

Grateful families stand in long lines for the opportunity to take home trees which will brighten their holiday season and bring a little Christmas into their homes. George Garrick is an Internet CEO who spends $30,000 in his efforts to spread the joy of Christmas to those who have precious little of it in this economic environment. In spite of the high cost to him, he says that he gets it all back in smiles.

Thanks to families like the Garrick family, the Christmas spirit has been spread a little bit farther!

Christmas Spirit: Jessica Bachus’s Story

Over the next three blogs, I am going to take a brief departure from educational issues to share three heart-warming stories about giving to others at Christmas. I hope these will lift your spirits this Christmas season as much as they did mine. This first story is one that was reported by CBS News about a remarkable woman who has found a truly inspirational way to deal with tragedy.

The Christmas of 2006, Jessica Bachus was celebrating being five months pregnant and excitedly awaiting the joys of the New Year. Unfortunately, one month later, her daughter Kenzi was stillborn. Imagine the pain this couple endured as a result of this tragic loss. But this resilient woman turned that grief into something beautiful. She decided that since she couldn’t give a doll to her daughter Kenzi, she would give dolls to other girls in the community who might otherwise go without.

Jessica calls her organization Dolls for Daughters, and through donations, she was able to give 150 dolls to less fortunate little girls in 2007, 500 dolls in 2008, and 1,100 in 2009. And this year, more than 4,000 toys were donated and passed out by several volunteers to needy children whose parents showed up five hours before the doors even opened. And a new twist was added this year with the addition of toys for boys.

What a gift of love, and what an amazing way to turn the tragedy of losing a child into the joyful gift of giving to others! As Jessica looks at the happiness she has spread to so many young children, she summarizes her gracious efforts by saying, “My angel Kenzi is here and she is helping all these families,”

What an amazing woman with a beautiful Christmas spirit!