Dec. 17, 2013
By Tara Cavanaugh
Dozens upon dozens of green and red bags were delivered quietly into 14 AAPS schools this week.
Those bags held gifts, ranging from toys and clothes and other necessities, for students and families in need at Mitchell, Dicken, Carpenter, Eberwhite, Logan, Thurston, Wines, Ann Arbor Open, Clague, Forsythe, Tappan, Scarlett, Huron and the Ann Arbor Preschool and Family Center.
The gifts were arranged by the Magic of Christmas Adopt a Family Foundation, which was created by Debbie Williams-Hoak 18 years ago. Williams-Hoak, a University of Michigan All-American track athlete and former LPGA tour player, works to provide families in Washtenaw County with a better Christmas than what she remembers growing up.
“I had some really tough Christmases,” Williams-Hoak said. “I wanted to get to a point in my life where I could help other kids not go through what I went through. Fortunately, with everything that’s happened in my athletic career, I’ve gotten to know a lot of wonderful people who want to help out, and this program has just grown unbelievably.”
Last year the program served 530 kids from 185 families across the county. This year it’s reaching more than 650 kids (over 400 of those are AAPS students) from 250 families. It’s the largest year for Williams-Hoak’s foundation yet.
The Magic of Christmas Adopt a Family Foundation works with the schools, churches, foster care agencies, the Saline Police Department, the Chelsea Police Department, the Ann Arbor Police and the Washtenaw County Sheriff in order to identify needy families and distribute gifts.
“The need is greater than ever, but also I’m fortunate that the participation increases every year,” Williams-Hoak said. “More and more people find out about the program, and they like that it’s local with a personal connection. Donors are getting the exact things on the child’s wish list.”
Many who donate turn the gift-giving into a family affair, inviting their children to help select gifts, Williams-Hoak said. It’s an annual lesson in gratitude and giving.
Principals, counselors and social workers helped identify students and families. “This, to me, is what the holidays are all about: being able to give to families who are in need,” said Dicken Principal Mike Madison. “The kids will be excited when they open up these presents.”
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