Three Fort Hood families — nominated by the Armed Services YMCA and Homefront in Harker Heights — participated in the Santa Boots program Monday, sponsored by The Boot Campaign, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to igniting patriotism in every American.
The Boot Campaign CEO Shelly Kirkland said 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.”
The Boot Campaign stopped at the YMCA in Heights sharing what Kirkland referred to as their feel-good piece titled “Santa Boots” that presents Christmas gifts to military families in need. “This year, we were able to help over 80 military families in 27 states,” Kirkland said.
One of the families receiving a huge box full of Christmas presents was Stephanie Hill and her daughter Makayla Vann, 10. Stephanie said, “We were not expecting this many gifts. I figured most of them would be for Makayla but it was awesome and astonishing. I still don’t have the words to describe this!”
Vann’s father, who is an active duty soldier at Fort Hood, 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 shop specifically for each child and adult.”
The number of recipients has ranged from a husband and wife to a family of nine in Las Vegas, Nevada, this year.
Travis Knight, associate director of the ASYMCA in Harker Heights, said, “We were grateful that The Boot Campaign chose our location and helped some of our families. We’re proud to be a part of helping others during this season.”
The ASYMCA has several other holiday activities and services including: Operation Ride Home-soldiers are flown home or get logistical support to either drive or fly home for the holidays, Armed Forces Bowl Game — 200 soldiers and their families will be shuttled to the Armed Forces Bowl Game — and Operation Holiday Joy when turkey and food baskets given to military families (ASYMCA presented 250 of those this year).
According to their website: bootcampaign.org, the organization was created by five Texas women who read “Lone Survivor,” the national best seller by Veteran Navy Seal and fellow Texan Marcus Luttrell who survived a helicopter actually falling on top of him.
Kirkland said, “Reading Luttrell’s story of his harrowing experiences in the field and traumatic post-service account revealed to us a need that wasn’t being met to support and give back to those who risk their lives to provide Americans with the freedoms we enjoy.”
Since its inception in 2011, The 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.