Operation brings “military cheer” in time for Christmas

Story by David Altom, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs

Photos by Spc. Felicia Harris, Kentucky National Guard Family Programs

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Some of Santa’s youngest helpers got into the giving spirit in support of Operation Military Cheer. More than $33,000 worth of toys, bicycles, clothes and gift cards were given to 450 children of military families across the state. (Photo by Spc. Felicia Harris, Kentucky National Guard Family Programs)

FRANKFORT, Ky. — It’s interesting to see all of the traditions that surround Santa Claus.  In some countries Saint Nicholas (Sinterklaas) arrives by steam boat and in others “Father Christmas” rides a goat.  In most of the United States he drives a sleigh driven by a pack of reindeer.  In Kentucky, however, he relies on the National Guard to distribute toys to deserving young girls and boys.

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Operation Military Cheer is geared toward supporting military families across all the services, active duty, reserve and National Guard.  Contributions for this year’s drive came from a wide range of sources, local businesses, civilians, churches and schools as well as Kentucky National Guard troops and their families.

“This year we were able to provide gifts of clothes, shoes, and toys for more than 450 youth across the state,” said Cindy Culver, Child and Youth Programs Lead Coordinator.   “It’s one of the largest drives we’ve ever conducted.”

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Spc. Melissa Moore, 223rd MP Co., and Child and Youth Coordinator Linda Jones show off some of the donated toys to Chaplain (Maj.) Bill Draper. (Photo by David Altom, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs)

According to Culver, approximately $33,000 in toys, bicycles, clothes and gift cards were donated, sorted, assigned and delivered to families from Pikeville to Paducah.

“There is a great need for support out there,” said Linda Jones, Child and Youth Programs Coordinator.  “I’m so proud to see everyone pull together to bring comfort to these military families that sacrifice so much of themselves for our country.”

Don Sullivan represents one of the largest single contributors to this year’s drive, Home Builders Care, which is affiliated with the Home Builders Association of Lexington.

“Our focus this year has been on our military veterans,” said Sullivan  “On Veterans Day we built and dedicated a home for a disabled veteran, so it was only natural that when the holiday came around that we said we just had to support Operation Military Cheer.”

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Santa is surrounded by just some of the organizers, volunteers and contributors to this year’s Operation Military Cheers at the headquarters of Home Builders Care, an affiliate of the Home Builders Association of Lexington. Home Builders Care contributed more than 600 toys and 30 bicycles valued up to $7,500 to the drive. (Photo by Spc. Felicia Harris, Kentucky National Guard Family Programs)

Together with associates of the Home Builders Association, the Remodeler’s Council, local real estate offices and the public, the group collected more than 600 toys and 30 bicycles valued up to $7,500.

Even former service members like the Veterans Widows and Friends got into the action, donating 9 bicycles.

“I really like Operation Military Cheer,” said Spc. Melissa Moore, 223rd Military Police Co. “It’s a great idea for families that are struggling and it give the kids a little bit of hope, something to smile about and be happy about on Christmas.”

A combat medic who’s been to Iraq, Moore sees Operation Military Cheer as a personal mission.  “It’s helping out your brothers and sisters in uniform, which is what the military is all about,” she said.

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