“The Children’s Friends,” New Era, Dec. 1999, 35
When you envision a typical Christmas scene, you might think of things like snow, sitting by a fire, singing carols, and spending time with your family. You probably remember reading the Christmas story from the scriptures with your parents. No matter what your family traditions are, Christmas is a time most people look forward to.
Rebecca Scanlan, a Laurel, and her older sister, Ruth-Ann, have always enjoyed Christmases that are something close to the ideal. The only thing missing from their picture-perfect holidays might have been a light dusting of snow, since they rarely see any at their Woodstock, Georgia, home.
“I remember that at Christmas we’d listen to my dad tell the Christmas story. We’d eat dinner by candlelight and talk about our blessings. At Christmas I remember that I always felt loved,” says Rebecca.
But since Ruth-Ann and Rebecca’s dad, Fred, is on the board of advisers for a volunteer group that works with abused and battered children, they knew all too well that for many kids, Christmas holds no happy memories, no exciting anticipation. They had heard their dad tell stories of children who had never received a gift or a happy greeting at Christmas, children whose only Christmas wish was for harmony at home. It was a wish that hardly ever came true.
So the girls and their family put their heads together to think of ways to give these children the kind of Christmas they had never known. They decided a Christmas party would not only be a lot of fun but also a great Laurel project. The first time the family hosted the party, Ruth-Ann was in charge. The most important aspect of the party would be a spiritual message about the birth of the Savior. The party would also include food, games, and presents.
It was a tall order, but Ruth-Ann felt confident she could do it. Soon she had help from the missionaries, who had permission to tell the Christmas story and re-enact the Nativity with the children. Her dad dusted off his Santa outfit, ward members baked cookies and provided other goodies, and the youth in her ward dressed up as elves and reindeer to run games and other fun activities.
Presents, however, were another matter. With such a large group of children—many of whom had never had a real Christmas present—Ruth-Ann wanted to get nice gifts for everyone. So she contacted community groups, local businesses, neighbors, and friends to tell them what she had in mind.
What happened next surprised everyone. Gifts and money to buy gifts started to pour into the Scanlan home. When all was said and done, each child got exactly what he or she wanted from Santa Claus.
The community and ward had such a great time helping with Ruth-Ann’s project, she decided to do it again the next year. Now, younger sister Rebecca is a Laurel, and she spends the holiday season coordinating elves and reindeer, cookie bakers and present wrappers. It’s an overwhelming job at what is already a very busy time of year.
“I feel like I have been so blessed. I just want to give these children a little taste of what we have in our home,” says Rebecca.