Ranger Strong week stresses became Christmas celebrations and joy at the annual Family Promise Christmas Store

A+photo+of+the+Christmas+Store+all+set+up+and+ready+for+families+to+come+in.

Family Promise of Grand Rapids Facebook Page

A photo of the Christmas Store all set up and ready for families to come in.

$10,500.

4,000 children.

1 week.

Student Council and NHS volunteers worked diligently during Ranger Strong week in order to raise money for Grand Rapids families in need.

During the recent spirit week, FHC students, families, and faculty were able to raise over $10,000 to help these families. Last week, student volunteers used that money to go shopping for gifts and necessities, and last Friday and Saturday, the gifts were bought at discounted rates by the grateful families.

Junior Koyuki Buckhold was able to experience this joy first-hand as a volunteer for the store.

“When [students are] at school and people are talking about Family Promise and asking for donations,” Koyuki said, “there’s just not much to it; but, once you see [the impact], it makes you realize just how important it is for everyone to donate.”

She was an ‘elf’ in the store, meaning she hung out with the kids of the shopping adults. They did crafts, played games, and made cookies. Though it was a simple task, the reward was more than she had expected. 

“It was really gratifying to directly see the impact that Ranger Strong week had on a ton of people in our community,” Koyuki said. “It was good seeing the direct impact, but it also made me realize how much I have.”

Student council advisor Laura Stiles saw this same impact on her daughter. Being the school’s coordinator of the event, she went along and brought her kids with her. 

Stiles shared that her daughter—who had previously helped with the Ranger Strong dodgeball tournament to raise even more money—hung out with a little girl at the store. 

“When we got home she said, ‘mom, I didn’t really realize when I was doing the dodgeball and helping you, I didn’t really realize what this is all about. Now I get it. It’s so cool that we get to help these kids have a good Christmas,’” Stiles said. “So, I think seeing my own daughter have some empathy and having her appreciate spending time with this little girl just made [her] appreciate things more.”

While Stiles saw the impact it had on her daughter, the effects of the store touched all of those who were able to experience it first- hand, including junior Mina Siebert, who also volunteered at the store.

[A lot of the kids] were talking about how they were in and out of shelters. It made me realize how lucky I am to have my own room and have my own belongings. Obviously, some of the kids didn’t have that; so, it was eye-opening to see how thankful I should be for the little things in life that I don’t think about as much.”

— Mina Siebert

Mina also hung out with the children as an elf, too, and noticed how grateful everyone was for the event. 

“I didn’t really know what [the Christmas Store] entailed and how it really affected people,” Mina said. “But, being there, I really realized how important that fundraiser was for those people and how thankful they were. They were all just thanking us so much.”

Koyuki experienced this same gratitude with the family she was helping.

“The mom of the kids that I was hanging out with hugged me,” Koyuki said, “and she was talking about how great it is that we do this and how grateful she is that we do this. I would say [all of the families] were really appreciative of the Christmas Store and what Family Promise does for them because chances are, they wouldn’t have much of a Christmas without it.”

And all of that Christmas cheer wouldn’t exist without the help of FHC. 

Our school is the main donor for all of the gifts that are brought into the store. Besides the help of the church where it is held and a few small donors, the Christmas Store really would not be able to run without our school.

“I don’t think people realize [how much FHC impacts the store],” said Stiles, who greatly helped our school strive for its financial goal.  “I don’t know how they’d do it [without FHC].”

Although we weren’t able to reach the somewhat quixotic goal of $15,000, the store was not affected. It was still filled with all of the gifts and necessities needed to help the families.

However, even though the money we raised was enough for the store, Stiles has big plans for the future. She wants to have each class president find a corporate sponsor to match that class for Ranger Strong week, in order to double whatever funds we are able to raise on our own.

While next year’s plans are still in the works, one thing is for sure: this year was a success. Hanging out with the kids helped the volunteers to reflect on their own lives. 

“[A lot of the kids] were talking about how they were in and out of shelters,” Mina said. “It made me realize how lucky I am to have my own room and have my own belongings. Obviously, some of the kids didn’t have that; so, it was eye-opening to see how thankful I should be for the little things in life that I don’t think about as much.”

In the end, seeing the store in action, as well as the grateful families, made all of the stress, planning, and fundraising of Ranger Strong week worth it for everyone. 

“It was just very eye-opening to see how our school,” Mina said, “and the money that we raised as students and as a community, can have really big impacts on other families and little kids [in need].”