Whether they’ve been naughty or nice, many children wake up Christmas morning without gifts under the tree. So this year, a group of OTC Honors Program students did their part to ensure fellow Honors Program students and their families had presents to open on Christmas morning.
“I’d heard about the Angel Tree program on KTTS, so I brought it up to Rachel Stobbe, our student council president, to see if there might be a need within the Honors Program,” said John Cook, honors program student and past president of the council.
The Angel Tree program involves “adopting” a family in need and providing that family with gifts during the holiday season. The families are prompted to share their child’s age, clothing size and toy preferences with their donors so gifts can be tailored to meet each child’s needs and wants.
After John approached Rachel about the Angel Tree program, she brought it up in the next student council meeting. The group unanimously agreed that the project would be a good fit for the Honors Program. Next, John emailed the Honors Program student body to see if there were any single parents who needed help buying Christmas gifts for their children this year.
“Once I sent the email, I got four private responses from single parents within the Honors Program. They had a total of 12 children combined,” he added.
He went on to explain that once he received the families’ wish lists, his wife made 24 stocking hat ornaments — two for each child — and labeled each ornament with a clothing item or toy requested by the families. John then numbered the ornament hats and hung them from a Christmas tree in the Honors Program office so students could pick a hat and buy a present.
John also mentioned that the student council agreed to use Honors Program bake sale funds — if needed — to ensure that each of the 12 children received both a clothing item and toy through the project.
“But as it turns out, we didn’t have to use a dime,” John said with a smile. “All 24 stocking hats were taken by Honors Program students — and a few instructors, too.”
The Angel Tree program resonated with one OTC Honors student in particular. Kori Little, a former single mom of two, said she knew exactly what it was like to struggle during the holiday season.
“When I was younger, I had no money — especially around the holidays,” she explained. “And one Christmas, the nurse at my children’s school organized a project similar to the Angel Tree program. I remember my son got a race car track for Christmas, and my daughter received all these fun Barbie accessories. The nurse and the teachers at school helped me out when I needed it most. And I’ve never forgotten their generosity.”
So Kori — in the spirit of paying it forward — took not one, but four ornaments from the tree.
“I try to donate to a project like this every year, and four gifts just seemed like a good number,” Kori said modestly. “So I grabbed three toy ornaments and one clothing item ornament and went shopping. It’s fun to buy gifts for people outside of your own family.”
Kori went on to explain that while low-income families often receive assistance including food stamps, that assistance doesn’t cover other essential items like toilet paper and laundry soap. So she went to Price Cutter to purchase a cartful of toiletries for these families as well.
While she was in line to pay, the gentleman in front of her joked about the pile of toilet paper in her cart. And when Kori explained what the items were for, the gentleman motioned for the cashier to ring them up on his ticket.
“It was awesome,” Kori recalled. “And he was so matter of fact about it, too. I loved that.”
With the toiletries paid for, Kori decided to spend what she would have on those items to buy more gifts for the Honors Program families in need.
“Kids need Christmas. They need to believe,” Kori said firmly. “And all I did was continue the cycle of paying it forward,” she added with a smile.