January 02, 2014

DSC_0034Few things feel better than helping kids in need. Just ask the thousands of Y members, staff and volunteers who joined together to support Operation Christmas Child, an international mission project of Samaritan’s Purse.

 

For the 17th year in a row, the Y sent more than 25,000 gift-filled shoe boxes to kids around the world. In addition to treats, toys and hygiene items, many of the boxes also contained personal messages of faith and encouragement from those who sent them.

 

Operation Christmas Child truly reflects the Y’s commitment to “Servant Leadership” – the act of helping people we may never know or see.

OCC_2012-RussellOne Gift – Two Families Forever Changed

In 1996, when 9-year-old Kelvin Obai received an Operation Christmas Child gift from the YMCA of Central Florida, it was the first time he or anyone in his family had ever received such a present.

 

In fact, it was so exciting that the entire family, including Kelvin’s mother Jane, rushed home from Christmas Eve services to open the box and marvel at its contents.  In addition to crayons, sweets and small toys, the gift also included a heartfelt note written by its senders, Kimberly Russell and her Orlando family.

 

From that letter, a long and lasting friendship has evolved with the entire Obai family. It also led to the creation of an orphanage, sponsored by the Russells, which cares for orphaned street boys in Nairobi, Kenya, as well as the Obai family.

 

“Little did we know that when we sent the gift, it would impact two families – the Obai family and ours,” said Sue Russell, who stays in nearly daily contact via Skype with Jane and her children, Kennedy, Charity, Edwin and Kelvin, who is now in college.

 

Jane Obai couldn’t agree more. “Operation Christmas Child is the best thing that ever happened to us,” she said. “Without it we would have never met this wonderful family who has changed our lives.”