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From grassroots to holiday gifts

Adopt A Family Program helps wounded veterans’ families enjoy the holiday

The Adopt A Family program made Christmas very special for this youngster. Photo credit: Operation Ward 57

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The Adopt A Family Program pairs donors with wounded veterans' families in need across the nation to ensure there are Christmas presents under the tree and a hot meal on the table.

This spreading of Christmas cheer began in 2013 and expanded in 2016 to include post 9/11 Gold Star Families.

The linking of donors to families in need is the mission of Brittney Hamilton, the executive director of Operation Ward 57, a small nonprofit.

The idea for the formation of the organization began in 2006 when Sgt. Scott Cameron, a then-Fort Lewis soldier, was transferred to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center where he worked on Ward 57.

He noted that help and funding were needed to provide items for wounded warriors, their families and hospital staff, so in 2007, he and Seattle resident Deborah Semer formed Operation Ward 57.

"We are led by a grassroots volunteer effort of people who want to give back and help in any way they can," began Hamilton's email.

By 2011, the endeavor had expanded nationwide ... to provide services to all post 9/11 disabled veterans, soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines and their families.

Two years later, a change occurred.

"We noticed a large jump in requests for small emergency grants around the holidays," continued Hamilton, "and this put a strain on our small budget.

Wanting to help wounded warriors and their families during the holiday season and realizing that Operation Ward 57 had donors and sponsors wanting to help, Hamilton conceived the idea of creating the Adopt A Family Program and began pairing donors with families in need.

From 2013 until last year, the Adopt A Family Program has helped 1,523 families and 4,445 children around the country and in the South Puget Sound enjoy a memorable Christmas.

Hamilton said the 2019 program is looking at helping about 300 families and 1,000 children as of Nov. 19.

"At this time, applications are still open for families in need, and sponsors can sign up on a waitlist," she added.

"We will continue to pair through December 1."

The program's benefits are as clear as a mother's quiet heartfelt thanks.

"Christmas was going to be scarce," began Melissa A.'s email. 

"We had a major car repair and a plumbing leak all happen in a matter of two weeks in November, and those cleared out our Christmas savings for our family."

But then a friend who knew about Operation Ward 57 and its Adopt A Family Program stepped in, and her family was adopted by a donor who ensure that Melissa's children had presents to open on Christmas morning.

"We ask people to take a moment to reflect and see how they can be of service to others," concluded Hamilton.

"The Adopt A Family Program allows for opportunities to showcase how the holiday season can be about experiences and positive memories in helping those dealing with a hardship."

For more information about the Adopt A Family Program, visit: operationward57.org/holiday/.

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