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Making smiles for Christmas

If you are preparing your holiday shopping budget and eagerly awaiting the deals that will fill the News and Sentinel and Marietta Times this week in anticipation of Black Friday, consider adding another line or two to your list.

Children across the Mid-Ohio Valley are struggling, and might not have much (or anything) under the tree this year — if their homes have a tree. But programs such as the Salvation Army Angel Tree and the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve’s Toys for Tots can make a difference in that department … if you help them.

It is the season of giving, after all; and what fun is it to give only to those whose faces you will see when they unwrap another piece of Christmas magic?

You don’t have to spend a lot — though if you do, there will be few complaints — just grab an Angel Tree tag, or find your nearest Toys for Tots collection site and make them part of your shopping mission.

Here’s another trick you can try. If you’ve got youngsters in your home, go through their toys — look everywhere, closets, under beds, shelves, toy bins, the basement, the garage … the trunk of your car. You might be surprised to find some of LAST Christmas’s gifts in still-unopened packaging. If the kids in your life get enough “stuff” for Christmas each year that they immediately forget about half of it and never touch it again … well, you know what to do with those things.

Those discoveries might also provide a good way to talk to your kids about the importance of helping Santa by giving through the Angel Tree, Toys for Tots and other local nonprofits’ annual holiday programs. (It might also be worth talking to them about why the uncovered evidence suggests they do NOT need to get so much “stuff” this year.)

For years my dad talked about how much he enjoyed his annual Christmas tradition of giving enough that he could imagine the smiles on the faces of multiple local kids because he’d been able to make room for them, too, in the shopping budget.

Thinking about that this year made me doubly determined to spread the word. He was always adamant that he got far more joy out of giving those kids a brighter Christmas than anything he was able to give to them. He said he liked to sit back, watching the grandkids unwrap their own gifts, sip his coffee and smile knowing there were a few others out there, too, unwrapping gifts and having a merrier Christmas.

I know how much it warmed his heart. I saw the grin on his face every Christmas.

So, while this year will be very different for my family, I will try to follow his lead. You can, too.

I know it is not yet Thanksgiving, but it’s never too early to plan. And I’m hoping each of you will be able to grin on Christmas morning knowing there is a child out there smiling because of you.

Christina Myer is executive editor of The Parkersburg News and Sentinel. She can be reached via e-mail at cmyer@newsandsentinel.com

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