Christmas was a little brighter for 51 children thanks to “Operation Christmas Cheer,” a project organized by Ashe County resident Adam Ham.
Operation Christmas Cheer was a gift drive for needy children where each child received a stocking on Christmas morning.
“After watching a news clip on the recent school shooting that included a statement saying “the children who have survived this horrible atrocity will not be having a very merry Christmas this year,” the happiness of children began to weigh heavily on my mind, and the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to do something,” said Ham.
“I knew I didn’t have the resources available to be much help to children so far away, but what I could help spread some Christmas cheer right here at home.”
Ham operates a small business where he sells many different items - mostly toys. He decided to start a program to cheer up some children in the local area who needed it.
“I decided to put together a stocking for each child I could find who needed cheer and fill it with the toys I had in stock,” said Ham.
This project was taken on just three days before Christmas, and needing to find some children to put on his list, he posted messages on Facebook.
“I spent every waking hour creating postings and sending messages to everyone I knew, and many I didn’t know, asking them to spread the information about the project.”
According to Ham, the criteria to nominate a child was simple: the child had to be in the need for some extra cheer this Christmas, like a child who may have just lost someone close to them, a child who may have been ill, or a child who’s family is going through a tough time during the holiday season.
“The nominations began to poor in. I had enough supplies to take care of about 20 children and planned on doing this by myself, but on the second day I was up to 35 children and more where coming in, so I once again took to Facebook and asked for a different kind of help,” said Ham.
“I asked for donations - any kind of donations - toys, school supplies, hygiene items, or monetary donations for those who couldn’t go out and shop. It was close for a while, but soon the donations began to come in. I received help from several very caring people who gave everything from clothing, toys, blankets, to money,” said Ham.
On the last day of nominations, which was the Saturday before Christmas, Ham had a final total of 51 children on the list, along with a room full of toys and stockings.
“Sunday came and I began putting the stockings together the moment I got home from work. It took me 14 straight hours, but at 6 a.m. on Christmas Eve, I was finished with the last stocking just in time for the 8 a.m. scheduled delivery,” Ham said.
“The very first Operation Christmas Cheer was a success thanks to all who nominated children and to all those who chipped in with donations.”
Even though Ham never met any of the children whose lives were impacted by his generosity, only their parents, he says he has heard many stories of happy children eagerly opening their stockings, which was all the payment he wanted.
One parent said “I had been worried sick about not being able to give my children a Christmas they deserve… if they where more people like him (Ham) in our world it would be a much nicer place.”
“I have decided that with Operation Christmas Cheer being such a success with only three days to put it together, I will be doing this as an annual event, with more than three days to prepare from now on,” said Ham.
“By starting earlier and having more time to gather donations and volunteers next year I hope to at least double the number of children we can spread some Christmas cheer to.”