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Operation Christmas Child

Bringing joy to kids one shoebox at at time.

There had to be a reason Costco was selling wrapping paper festooned with snowmen and candy canes in September when the thermometer still read 90 degrees in the shade. The warehouse club chain must have known that we were packing shoeboxes full of gifts for children in need.

If you haven’t heard of Samaritan Purse’s Operation Christmas Child, the project is a wonderful—and simple—way to bring joy to children around the world. Ever since my sons were little, we’ve made it a family tradition.

Here’s how it works:

Grab a shoebox. (Similarly shaped plastic containers are okay.)

Wrap the box and lid separately with colorful holiday paper.

Download an Operation Christmas Child label denoting gender and age group of your recipient and tape to your box.

Then go shopping!

This year my guys chose to pack boxes for two boys aged 10-14. Target is great because they have the fantastic $1 section. We scored some cool blinking dolphins, an octopus that grows to three times its size overnight, and of course, the all American slinky.

Each boy also chose a bigger ticket item. Saxon got a cool Alien Lego conquest set because he has spent many hours building creations from the blocks. Tanner is a gridiron nut so he bought a football from Big 5.

Their favorite sour candy is always a must. We piled in Jolly Ranger Sours and Sour Apple Punch Straws. We don’t want to promote cavities so we included a toothbrush and Spongebob toothpaste. Saxon dreamed of including Red Bull because Santa stuffs a can in his stocking every year (forbidden the other 364 days of the year) but sending liquids is a no-no due to spillage.

I also love including art supplies such as crayons, colored pens and tablets of paper, and other necessities such as cups and plates, socks, and underwear.

Last but not least, Tanner and Saxon always include a photo and a note filled with important tidbits such as where we live, what sports they play and other pertinent details which this year will most likely include news of about our new golden retriever puppy, Kua who thankfully didn’t chew all the contents of the box.

Many of these children experience hardships like we’ll never know. Some live in poverty, others are refugees who’ve fled war torn countries with just the clothing on their backs. If not for OCC, they would receive absolutely nothing on Christmas.

To watch the YouTube videos and see the elation on the kids’ faces as they rip open their boxes is to witness one moment in time where these children are free of worry. They can model plastic sunglasses, toss soccer balls and yes, eat candy for breakfast. It’s amazing to see how things that we take for granted every day can change a kid’s life.

What will you pack in your shoe box?

National Collection Week is Nov. 14-21. To find a drop-off location near you, visit Operation Christmas Child. American Idol winner Scotty McCreery has been packing shoeboxes since he was knee high to Steven Tyler. Check out his video above.

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