The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

November 20, 2013

Help spread Christmas joy | Charities collecting for needy children


The Tribune-Democrat

JOHNSTOWN — Kids and Christmas go together like peanut butter and jelly.

Unfortunately, there are many youngsters in the Greater Johnstown area who are not looking forward to the holiday. Why, you ask? Because of situations out of their control – their parents do not have the “bread” to provide a shiny new toy for Christmas. Their parents might have to choose between putting food on the table or paying a utility bill to keep the lights burning or the furnace operating, leaving little else for discretionary spending.

But there are many local charities that see the need to help brighten Christmas for children.

One such group is Pick a Wish, the brainchild of Emily Johns of Indiana. Facebook users can join a social media group, including those in Cambria and Somerset counties, to submit a wish or suggest a charity to help grant a wish. Last year, about 300 wishes were granted, Johns told Tribune-Democrat reporter Justin Dennis. So far this year, about 50 people have submitted wishes, but she anticipates more wishes will come pouring in as the holiday approaches.

“To me, money doesn’t matter,” Johns said. “It’s not everything. Helping other people is.”

Another group working to make Christmas brighter for children is Operation Christmas Child, a project of Samaritan’s Purse that asks participants to fill an empty shoe box with school supplies, toys, hygiene items and notes of encouragement. The boxes then will be shipped to needy children overseas. The local chapter of Samaritan’s Purse hopes to fill 4,400 boxes. Donations will be collected through Monday and can be dropped off at Belmont United Methodist Church in Johnstown or Garman Church of God in Northern Cambria.

Operation Christmas Child has distributed more than 100 million gifts to children in more than 130 countries worldwide.

“This is a project where anyone of any age can get involved, and it’s neat to see families come together to work on the packing,” Teresa Morrison of Brookville, Jefferson County, a co-coordinator for the project, told our Kelly Urban.

And athletes from Cambria and Somerset county high schools will take a kick at providing Christmas cheer.

All-star soccer players will take the field Saturday at Greater Johnstown’s Trojan Stadium for the third annual Santa Fund Soccer Classic to benefit The Tribune-Democrat’s Santa Fund. In its first three years, the games have raised almost $20,000 for the charity, which has distributed almost $100,000 worth of toys and goodies to children in the past five years.

The girls will take the field at 1:30 p.m., followed by the boys at 3. A minimum donation of $5 for both games will be collected at the gate.

There are many ways that area residents who feel a special calling during the holidays can help “spread” the holiday cheer to a deserving boy or girl this Christmas. You don’t have to be ashamed if you can only afford a dollar or two, or even pocket change. Any donation will go a long way to help put a smile on a child’s face on Christmas morning.

Please consider helping.