The blue, gold, silver and red ornaments hanging from a Christmas tree in Bancroft Hall were masked Tuesday morning by a blanket of 500 paper angels.
On each angel card there is a gender, an age and a Christmas list with wants, needs, and requests for clothing from local families. During the next two weeks students, staff and faculty will pull the cards from the tree and return with unwrapped gifts, fulfilling the requests of the anonymous children in need.
Midshipman First Class Louise Zhou picked a card for a 2-year-old girl, who needs wipes and Minnie Mouse toys and wants a kitchen set, a FurReal pet, a Baby Alive, a doll stroller and a tricycle with a helmet. She wears size 7 toddler shoes, and size 3T clothing.
The 22-year-old from Cincinnati said she picked that card because it reminds her of her little sister, who is four.
“Something like this, that is so small to us, brings a lot of joy to them,” she said.
Over the next two weeks Zhou and other midshipmen will purchase the items on the lists for local children in need, who will receive the presents through The Salvation Army. The campaign at the Academy is called the Giving Tree and it is organized by the 6th Company with support from the Midshipman Action Group. The tradition is now in its 27th year.
The Giving Tree is a part of the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program — The Salvation Army provided the angel cards hanging from the tree.
The Salvation Army of Annapolis serves Anne Arundel County south of Glen Burnie, and this year will provide gifts for 1,010 children through the program. The Academy is the largest contributor of gifts, according to Salvation Army Commanding Officer Lt. Laurie Ferraez.
“It is because people in the community, people like you, so many children will be blessed this year,” Ferraez said.
The midshipmen, staff and faculty who take an angel card from the tree have until Dec. 11 to place their unwrapped gifts under the evergreen. The Salvation Army will distribute the gifts Dec. 19.
Zhou, who is chief of staff for the Midshipman Action Group, said she works together with her squad to purchase presents. Her squad adopts a child, and they all go out together to shop and otherwise work together to make the gifts extra special. It makes the experience more personal, and also helps unite the squad, which is composed of about 10 people.
“Instead of just doing one or two things off of here, we really go extra,” she said.
It was bare beneath the tree Tuesday, but by Dec. 11 the Christmas tree will be surrounded, said Midshipman First Class Taygan Grundy, a member of the 6th Company who helped organize this year’s event. The 22-year-old from California liked Tonka Trucks and anything outdoors-related as a child she said.
Christmas is a big deal in her family, she said. She considers her family fortunate, that they’ve been able to celebrate the holiday well, and celebrate the holiday together.
“There are a lot of families that don’t get that option, so to me, it is incredibly important to make sure that we support the community that allows us to go to school in their capital, that allows us to represent them on a national level,” Grundy said. “It’s the least we can do to make sure that our nation’s future has a Christmas we got to have when we grew up.”
A ceremony for the Giving Tree was held Tuesday. There Capt. Robert Chadwick, Commandant of Midshipmen, talked more about the Academy’s ties to Annapolis.
“I think we are truly blessed to be parked in the heart of this great city,” Chadwick said. “In my short time here I have seen that the brigade truly does embrace that relationship with Annapolis, and you do that through your generosity.”
The Giving Tree is another example of that generosity, he said, and a personal way to make a difference in the life of a child in Annapolis.
“As good as those angels look up there, I think they’re going to be scarce pretty soon,” he said.