‘SANTA BOOTS’ OUTREACH PROJECT SURPRISES DESERVING MILITARY FAMILIES WITH HOLIDAY GIFTS CAREFULLY CHOSEN BY SELFLESS VOLUNTEERS By Barry Smith Boot Campaign
anta deserves a ton of credit for delivering gifts and creating millions of happy faces around the globe every Christmas morning. But his job, as most people know, would be impossible without his dedicated army of elves. The national military non-profit Boot Campaign has enlisted its own platoon of elves who volunteer to help Jolly Old Saint Nick through its annual “Santa Boots” project. The initiative, piloted by Boot Campaign’s Programs Director Meg Jones, sends Christmas gifts to deserving military families across the country with the help of patriotic corporate partners, Boot Elves, and a little magic! Without help around the holidays, many military families would go without the uplifting tradition and gifts they deserve. Money is often tight after deployments, and some military families have permanent change of station orders or face servicerelated injuries. Since 2015, Boot Elves have assembled and delivered a “surprise” box full of meaningful gifts to 189 deserving families in 35 states. The gifts are provided by Boot Campaign, its national non-profit partners Armed Services YMCA and Operation Homefront, as well as its participating network of grateful Americans. The volunteers come from near and far, write personal notes of thanks, shop for gifts, wrap gifts in one of two Texas workshops, and hand-deliver Santa Boots boxes to families in their city.
HOMELAND / December 2018
“Shopping for our families is something hard to describe, but I knew I had to be part of it and make Christmas special for these families,” explains Hughes, who became involved four years ago. “It’s like you can picture the family members in your mind and when you find just the right toy, outfit or gadget, you are so excited and can just picture them opening it and thinking, ‘Wow, Santa or someone really knows me and cared!’” “When we get all the gifts in the warehouse to start wrapping, I really do feel like an elf,” adds Cupp, a resident of the Fort Worth, Texas area. “It’s quite magical like the North Pole. People in the program are hustling and bustling to make everything look just right, all to make our families know we love them, and know we appreciate them for their sacrifice and service.” Both Hughes and Cupp are civilian volunteers and each responsible for managing half the shopping for the 75 families from 31 states and Washington D.C. that were selected to receive Santa Boots boxes this year. Although they are not direct members of the military community, they participate because of their deep understanding, appreciation and respect for what that community does for them and their loved ones. Each box is stuffed with approximately 15 to 20 personalized gifts for each member of the recipient family. The gifts are donated from patriotic individuals and businesses across the country, and are curated based on the selected families’ interests, hobbies and immediate circumstances.