HARKER HEIGHTS — Three Fort Hood families, nominated by the Armed Forces YMCA and Homefront in Harker Heights, participated in the Santa Boots program Monday sponsored by Boot Campaign, a national non-profit organization which is dedicated to igniting patriotism in every American.
Boot Campaign CEO Shelly Kirkland told the Herald that the organization focuses on providing two main programs. “The first is “Reboot,” offering the latest treatment and training programs for veterans struggling with post traumatic stress disorder, chronic pain, addiction, insomnia and traumatic brain injury,” Kirkland said.
Boot Campaign was at the Armed Services YMCA in Heights sharing what Kirkland referred to as their feel-good piece entitled “Santa Boots,” which presents Christmas gifts to military families in need.
“This year, we were able to help over 80 military families in 27 states,” according to Kirkland.
One of the families receiving a huge box full of Christmas presents was Stephanie Hill and her daughter Makayla Vann, who spoke with the Herald and said, “We were not expecting this many gifts. I figured most of them would be for her, but it was awesome and astonishing. I still don’t have the words to describe this!”
Vann’s father was on an out-of-town training mission.
Kirkland said, “We had the families fill out wish lists for items, the clothes sizes for each family member and the genders in the home, so we could especially shop for them.”
The number of recipients has ranged from a husband and wife to a family of seven children, including the two parents, in Las Vegas this year.
Travis Knight, associate director of the Armed Services YMCA in Harker Heights, said, “We were grateful that Boot Campaign chose our location to help some of our families. We’re proud to be a part of helping others during this season.”
The Armed Services YMCA has several other holiday activities and services, including Operation Ride Home, where soldiers are flown home or get logistical support to either drive or fly home for the holidays. Armed Forces Bowl Game, where 200 soldiers and their families will be shuttled to the Armed Forces Bowl Game; and Operation Holiday Joy, which involves turkey and food baskets given to military families (the Armed Services YMCA presented 250 of those this year).
According to their website: bootcampaign.org, the organization was created by five Texas women after reading “Lone Survivor,” the national best seller by veteran Navy Seal and Texan Marcus Luttrell, who survived a helicopter actually falling on top of him.
Since its inception in 2011, Boot Campaign blazed a trail in the nonprofit world, raising more than $19 million and giving more than $2 million annually to help service members, veterans and their families from every generation.