The death of a family member is always an emotional experience. For those who have lost a child or parent, the holiday season becomes a very difficult time. For over ten years a charitable foundation in the South Bend area has worked to make these families, both adults and children, a priority around the Christmas holiday. The Christmas Commandos is a foundation that brings the spirit of Christmas to those who need it the most during the holiday season. On Christmas Eve, the Commandos visit homes where great sadness resides due to the tragic death of a child or a parent. The Commandos deliver gifts of love in an effort to bring joy to the surviving family members. Christmas ornaments and decorations, candy canes, and presents for family members are delivered to each deserving home. An angel statue is also left behind in memory of the lost loved one. The Commandos’ mission is to bring the magic of Christmas to life one family at a time.
The Christmas Commandos identify families in need through the review of obituaries and word of mouth. It is not a 5013(c) non-profit that conducts multiple fundraisers throughout the year. It is one person, and her family, who spearheads a letter writing campaign to friends and family each year to raise funds. All funding for decorations and gifts comes through this means. The individual who created the foundation thirteen years ago works tirelessly to remain anonymous. She does not want any recognition for her work. She does not want a lot of publicity for the foundation. She just wants to help families in the Michiana area. She is a dynamic soul who is very passionate and committed to her mission of serving families. Her spirit is contagious and it inspires others to get involved to make a difference.
It was a week before Christmas when I arrived at the top-secret Commando headquarters. The windows were covered with wrapping paper in an effort to keep the magic inside the workshop. The Christmas spirit was evident as I entered the building. A large number of volunteers were there to help sort and wrap the gifts in preparation for the Commandos’ Christmas Eve deliveries. After a quick welcome from the lead elf, we jumped into the task of wrapping gifts. I had the opportunity to wrap the gifts for the Smith family. A family that consisted of a mother and three small children. Their father was killed in a tragic auto accident earlier this year. It sounded like it has been very difficult for them to make ends meet after his death. It was hard not to become emotional as I heard the story and tried to understand the grief they must all feel. I knew that I would never meet them or see the smiles on their faces Christmas morning, but I knew how important this would be for them. The mental images of the three children’s faces as they opened presents was enough for me. I wrapped a large number of gifts for each family member and placed them with the decorations and angel to be delivered. We staged the items by family to ensure easy pick up and delivery by the Commandos on Christmas Eve. In about two hours, presents, decorations, and angels for over 50 families were wrapped and ready to go.
This volunteer experience was a simple one. It didn’t take much time or skill to wrap a few Christmas presents. Trust me, if you have seen my wrapping skills you know that I am not a professional. Even though this experience was not complex, its purpose was great. The impact the Christmas Commandos has on families in our area cannot be truly measured. One moment of joy created on Christmas morning could possibly change a life’s direction. The Commandos served over 50 families this year. They have served over 350 homes and over 1500 family members since its creation. It is an amazing group of individuals doing unbelievable things. The next time you feel a little bit of the Christmas magic, look around. If it is not Santa Claus, it might be a Christmas Commando.