Volunteers play Santa for military families

Over 20 volunteers gathered at Roquemore’s Hardware in Whitehouse Monday night to commence a week of gift-wrapping and box-packing Christmas gifts for America’s military families.

“It’s really heartwarming seeing our volunteers coming together,” said Shelly Kirkland, 35, CEO of Boot Campaign, the national nonprofit behind the event.

According to Kirkland, military families often face deployments around the holidays or move to new deployment stations. These moves come at a financial cost.

“So any way that we can alleviate the stress of providing Christmas gifts for military families, we want to do that,” she said.

By the end of the week, Boot Campaign will ship care packages to over 80 military families.

Packages will contain gifts such as clothing, shoes and often personalized notes of gratitude from volunteers. Each package has 20 items on average.

The packages often include big-ticket items that families would be unable to afford otherwise. In 2015, the campaign presented each family with the electronic game console Xbox, thanks to the support of families and businesses who donated to the campaign.

Staff Sgt. Danielle Vaughn, 31, an Air Force reservist, said she volunteers with Boot Campaign because as a junior ranking service member she knows how tight finances can be. Now that she is in a better place financially, she wants to give back and provide an example for her daughter.

“We used to not have a lot to give [my daughter],” she said. “Now that I’m out and have another job, we’re blessed to be able to give her the kind of Christmas I think every kid should have.”

Vaughn is a fourth-grade teacher at Caldwell Elementary in Tyler.

“I know that there a lot of kids still in the military who don’t get that kind of thing,” she said.

Texas Roadhouse assistant service manager Ren Yeakle, 23, was on-site to help wrap gifts along with three other servers.

Boot Campaign started in 2009 after five Texas women read Marcus Luttrell’s book “Lone Survivor” and were moved to make a difference for America’s military.

“After reading the book, we decided to put our collective skill sets together and set out to awaken other Americans about the service and sacrifice our military face,” Tyler orthodontist and Boot Campaign co-founder Sherri Reuland, 49, said.

At the time, Reuland had no military connection.

The five women launched the #LaceUpAmerica photo campaign and enlisted celebrities to wear combat boots to bring awareness and show solidarity with America’s service members.

Elf Week will continue through Friday from 5 to 9 p.m. at Roquemore’s Hardware in Whitehouse. Boot Campaign welcomes volunteers. To sign up, visit BootCampaign.org/SantaBoots.

Boot Campaign is a national nonprofit dedicated to igniting patriotism in all Americans and providing life-improving programs to military families.

To learn more about Boot Campaign and its work, visit BootCampaign.org.

© 2017 KYTX-TV


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