|Bundle of Toys
Source: by Nondice Powell, Courier staff
Fort Campbell Courier, 11 December 2008
Bundle of toys
by Nondice Powell, Courier staff
‘Twas just weeks before Christmas, when all across the base, gifts were gathered for the Little Soldier Tree at a steady pace.
More than 2,000 children this year will receive gifts as part of the Little Soldier Tree program. Children of Soldiers at Fort Campbell were nominated by their command and the nominations and Christmas wishes were forwarded on to the Family Resource Center.
“We’re working really hard to take care of everyone,” said Becki Mastrian, Army Volunteer Corps coordinator and Little Soldier Tree coordinator.
Anyone wanting to fulfill a child’s Christmas wish has been able to take a tag from the tree since Nov. 3. By the time the tree moved to the Post Exchange on Nov. 28, more than 600 tags had already been taken.
“We’ve had a lot of requests for clothing and educational toys this year,” said Mastrian.
Many who give to the Little Soldier Tree do so because they have been in a similar situation or know someone who has.
Sergeant Joshua Thurman, 1st Squadron, 33rd Cavalry Regiment, has helped fill two Christmas wishes and would like to do more. His family was once the recipients of gifts from a similar program before he was stationed at Campbell.
“I’m from a big family and not to mention I’m a parent as well,” said Thurman. “I know what it’s like trying to make ends meet during the holidays. I’ve been there. I’m trying to help bring a smiling face to the children.”
Some want to fill specific wishes because of their own childhood memories.
“I had a Soldier who wanted to give G.I. Joes because that’s what he had growing up,” said Mastrian. “A lot of families are also getting tags for children that are the same age as their own so the children are able to help pick something for a child just like them.”
Volunteers from the Family Readiness Groups and other organizations have been sitting at the tree at the PX and taking part in the free gift wrapping in the food court.
While waiting for her husband Spc. Joel Dolphin, 5th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, to return soon from deployment, Karlee Dolphin and her 4-month-old son Mason Dolphin volunteered Friday and Saturday.
“It makes me feel really good that I’m helping all these kids so they can have a good Christmas,” said Dolphin. “Everyone wants a good Christmas.”
Since the program is anonymous, the FRC usually doesn’t hear from the families who receive gifts, but the feedback they do get is always positive.
“I did have a lady at one of the restaurants tell me thank you so much for doing the program,” said Mastrian. “She said ‘I have four young daughters that will be recipients and I just thank you very much.’ It was a heart-warming moment.”
Mastrian explained the program started at Fort Campbell in 1995. In addition to donations of gifts fulfilling specific tags, the FRC has also received gifts from the contestants of the Miss Tennessee Teen Pageant and from the Appleton’s Harley Davidson/Buell Eagle Toy Run. All the donations and the funding the program has will make sure none of the children go without.
The gifts fill the room at the FRC dedicated to sorting and organizing them. Seeing the community come together for those in need, reminds those at the FRC working with the program how much people do want to help others.
“Every day we come in contact with people and they’re upset and frustrated,” said Brandi Swint, Mobilization and Deployment specialist. “We see so many times when it is all about us. Then you come to this and you see how much people give. It makes you see there are really good people out there.”
While the deadline has passed to take a tag and turn in a gift, the FRC is still accepting donations. They continue to receive Christmas wishes as emergency situations arise and still have 400 gift wishes to fill. Gifts for any age and clothes of any size will be accepted at the FRC until Wednesday.