By Hiedi Andersen
WOODLAND — Books, lip balm, markers, sunglasses, shoes and toys sound like the fantastic end to any tween’s birthday party.
But for Woodlander Emily DeLacey, the table piled high with playing cards, socks, colored pencils and bouncy balls at her recent “almost” birthday party was just the start of a huge collection of items she requested, but not for herself. Instead, the request was on behalf of the thousands of children throughout the world in desperate situations.
Instead of asking for gifts for herself, Emily, a fifth-grade student at Woodland Christian School, requested that guests at her 11th “un-birthday” party bring small items that would fit into shoeboxes as part of Operation Christmas Child, a project of Samaritan’s Purse, an international Christian relief organization.
“This is my sixth year packing boxes for children around the world,” said Emily, whose actual birthday falls so close to Thanksgiving that she decided to celebrate a few weeks early so friends could join in her philanthropic plans.
“It makes my heart happy when I think about the smiles on a child’s face when they open their boxes and find what I have packed for them,” she said.
Emily learned about Operation Christmas Child through school and her Girl Scout troop, No. 1416, which has packed boxes several times. Over the years, the girls in Emily’s troop have collected hundreds of items that some children do not have access to, such as toothpaste, soap, socks, toothbrushes, washcloths and hair brushes.
The special gifts are packaged in shoeboxes and delivered to 97 countries, including Ghana, Madagascar, Romania and Papua New Guinea.
“When I pack a shoebox, I imagine what the child’s face will look like and how excited he or she feels,” Emily said.
Last year, about 8.2 million shoeboxes were prepared worldwide, with more than 5.5 milllion shoeboxes filled in the United States. Emily’s “gifts” from her party will fill dozens of boxes as the 2012 OCC campaign swings into high gear.
The boxes Emily packs will include precious commodities for those in need. Her party netted her more than 800 gifts, including notebooks, coloring books and crayons, toys, pencils, markers, toothpaste and toothbrushes, decks of cards, shirts, hair brushes, socks, bracelets, lip balm, erasers, bouncy balls, hair accessories, washcloths and soaps.
“I feel so kind giving a shoebox to children around the world,” Emily said.
Operation Christmas Child began in 1990 in Wales, and was adopted by Samaritan’s Purse in 1993. Since then, more than 86 million shoebox gifts for needy children have been distributed. Some of the children who have benefited include young earthquake and cholera victims in Haiti; those affected by earthquakes in China; kids in the war-torn Republic of Georgia; schoolchildren attacked by terrorists in Besland, Russia; war orphans in Kosovo, Bosnia, Croatia and Rwanda; and young survivors of the tsunami in Southeast Asia.
“One of the things that makes Operation Christmas Child so special is its emphasis on kids helping kids,” states the Samaritan’s Purse OCC web page. “This project provides a simple, tangible way for children and teenagers to join adults in sharing the joy of giving to children around the world at Christmas.”
Emily’s OCC party will help Samaritan’s Purse move closer to its 2012 goal of delivering more than 100 million boxes. Each year, Samaritan’s Purse receives gifts from Canada, Australia, Austria, Finland, Germany, Ireland, New Zealand, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Each of the boxes will be hand-delivered by Samaritan’s Purse and its national partners via bus, train, helicopter, boat, elephant, mule and even dog sled. With tracking technology, Emily and other donors will be able to find out exactly what country’s children have benefited from their generosity.
To learn more about Operation Christmas Child, visit www.samaritanspurse.org.