GIBSON CITY – Nick Smith, 10, was looking forward to Saturday’s American Legion Christmas basket delivery more than Christmas Day itself.
“I’m so excited today to deliver to kids and parents to see how excited they are,” said Nick as he anxiously waited to make deliveries for the second year in a row. “It just makes me happy to see the kids happy.”
Nick might have been the youngest, but he wasn’t the only volunteer on hand Saturday for the delivery that has become a Legion tradition.
Several volunteers helped pack food and toys at the American Legion earlier in the week and a group of over 20 volunteers from the American Legion, American Legion Auxiliary and Sons of the American Legion delivered them Dec. 19.
“I couldn’t do this without these guys,” said Jane Lange, a committee member who helps organize the Christmas basket delivery. “I love them all.”
“A lot of people have hard jobs,” Nick said as he watched volunteers load hundreds of boxes onto trailers. “They all do their share.”
The American Legion Post 568 has been helping families at Christmas since 1946. In her 45 years of helping, Lange said some years the Legion helped as many as 127 families. This year, there were 79 on the list.
“People are very generous,” Lange said of the donations that make it possible.
Nick was one of those donors. He has Legos on his own Christmas list and used money he earned collecting and recycling cans to purchase them for other children.
While some his age might be thinking of getting toys of their own, Nick was happy to buy toys for others.
“It’s going to a good cause,” he said. “I know people will get what they need for Christmas.”
Among the other donations this year were three bikes and helmets.
“The kids will be excited if they don’t have a bike or if they have an old one,” Nick said.
For Nick, the best part of the day is walking into the house with Santa to give gifts to young children.
“I see a bunch of 3 or 4-year olds and it just lights up their faces,” he said. “They get to see Santa. Some kids don’t know Santa is going to walk into their house.”
Post Commander Denny Houser agreed that the children are what make the day special.
“If you don’t walk in and have a tear in your eye when you see the kids’ faces, then something is wrong with you,” Houser said.