AKRON — One hundred and twenty-eight families in the Tippecanoe Valley area received assistance this holiday season through the Miracle Tree program – six more than last year’s total of 122 families.
Miracle Tree is sponsored by Mill Creek Missionary Church and has been going strong for years in the Rochester area. Tippecanoe Valley teachers Darren Parker and Crystal Heckaman helped expand the program two years ago after noticing a growing need for it in their school corporation.
“This year’s program was another huge success in the Tippecanoe Valley community. It wouldn’t have happened without all of the community support we received in buying gifts and volunteering,” said Parker.
Families who expressed an interest in receiving help this year were assigned a number. Those numbers were then placed on ornaments and hung on trees inside Bell Memorial Public Library in Mentone and Akron Carnegie Public Library. The numbers let sponsors know how many children were in each family. Sponsors were then provided a wish list for the family they selected.
All of the gifts were presented to the families on Dec. 13, at a special event that included food and activities for children.
“Even with the poor weather that night, we still managed to feed roughly 500 people and pass out gifts to 351 kids this year,” said Parker.
The Tippecanoe Valley High School Student Council was one of the largest sponsors of families this year. Heckaman, who also serves as student council co-advisor alongside Cami Shriver, says they adopted 13 families, spent $6,100 on 61 kids and then another $300 to supplement gifts for 10 kids who didn’t receive many gifts from their secret givers. They also created, set up and played games with the kids on the night the gifts were given out.
“It was fun seeing the kids that we shopped for having such a good time, playing games and bouncing in the inflatables,” said Heckaman.
Student council members used donations from the community to purchase the gifts. They, along with students in Shelly Engle’s English 11A class, took a trip to Meijer in Warsaw to shop for the children. The students in Engle’s class have been discussing philanthropy and wanted to see how they could help with the Miracle Tree program this year.
“Thank you to all of the families that sponsored one or more of our households in need as well as to all of the local businesses and organizations for their support,” said Parker.
Those businesses and organizations include Regional Rehab, Akron Las Donas Club, Craig Welding, Splendor Boats, local area farmers, TVHS Student Council, Glam, Mentone United 4-H, Beery Construction, Biddle Auction Co., Cargill, Midwest Poultry, Mill Creek Missionary Church, Hoffman Body Shop, Tippecanoe Valley School Corporation, Meijer, Bell Memorial Public Library, Akron Carnegie Public Library, Silver Creek Church, 4-H Jr. Leaders and Beta Epsilon-Psi Jota Xi Sorority.