Children playing, dogs wagging their tails, Soldiers carrying gifts with their Families by their sides — this was no typical accountability formation for Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, I Corps, Oct. 26. This was a gathering to help fellow Soldiers who are struggling to bring joy to their children during the holidays.
Santa’s Castle is a private, nonprofit organization run by community volunteers established in 1994. It provides Christmas presents to Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine, activated National Guard, Coast Guard and Reserve service members’ children.
The initiative to donate toys to Santa’s Castle was part of the battalion’s service project for Make a Difference Day, said Capt. Darren Kerr, commander, Headquarters Support Company.
So far, HHB has been the first unit on Joint Base Lewis-McChord arrive at the castle and donate toys to the organization. A total of 310 Soldiers and Family members participated, dropping off toys worth more than $2,800 to help military children in need.
“The purpose of the march to Santa’s Castle was to encourage other units to do the same,” said Lt. Col. Steven Berger, commander, HHB. “It really doesn’t take that much planning and coordination and it really helps the community.”
Last year, Santa’s Castle gave out more than $100,000 worth of toys, Santa’s Castle secretary Lisa Bennett said. Today is the last day the organization is taking referrals. Soldiers at the ranks of specialist and below who are struggling financially can go through their chains of command or chaplains to be referred to Santa’s Castle to receive gifts for their children. After review and approval, Soldiers are assigned times to go to Santa’s Castle to shop for their children’s presents.
Santa’s Castle gets all their donations, toys and money, from community organizations. More than 2,300 children received toys from Santa’s Castle last year, Bennett said.
“This is a great example of the Army Family helping the Army Family,” Berger said.
Command Sgt. Maj. Woodrow Ishman Jr., HHB, summarized the spirit of the march to Santa’s Castle. “Any time that we can show support to provide for those who have a need is awesome.”
The Santa’s Castle office is at the corner of Pierce Avenue and North 21st Street on JBLM, Building T-6191. Call 964-0634 for more information or go to www.JBLMsantascastle.org.
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