One Saugerties woman’s crafting prowess and love of the winter holidays took on a new dimension four years ago when a friend asked her to add a few recipients in need of holiday cheer to her Christmas list. Using her Facebook group Operation Christmas Cheer, Roxanne Ferber’s exercise of sending holiday cards to children spending Christmas in area hospitals has grown exponentially. A force of 856 members have been sending Christmas well-wishes to ten hospitalized children over the last four years, embodying the giving holiday spirit with just a few pen strokes each.
Ferber’s newest list, complete with mailing addresses and background information on the children in question, will be posted on the Facebook group on Black Friday.
“A friend of mine had recognized there were a few young kids in the area who were undergoing chemotherapy, and asked me if I could send out some extra Christmas cards when I sent out mine,” said Ferber. “One card didn’t feel like enough to me, so I asked all my friends and family to send cards, too. About 75 people got involved. The following year they asked me if we were going to do it again, so the idea took off from there.”
The ten-child-per-year cutoff is a logistical necessity. Ferber is currently the only person coordinating between the families of the participants and the volunteers who craft the cards. “It makes sure that the volunteers aren’t overwhelmed, and that every kid gets a little something,” she explained. As a member of various cancer support networks, Ferber has her ear to the ground in terms of locating and working with families to find appropriate children for the project.
She also gets a little help from her friends. “When people find out that this is what I do at Christmas, they will send me plenty of links to potential families,” Ferber said.
Some volunteers send gifts alongside their cards. At the end of the day, Ferber said, the support network is less about what gets sent and more about providing support and uplift for these children at a time that they need it the most. Adding festive pops of red and green color the children’s drab rooms.
“Some people do take it upon themselves to send gifts, but I really just ask for Christmas cards. It’s a quick and easy way for people to give back,” she said. “You’re already writing a Christmas-card list for the people in your life, so adding one more doesn’t take much extra time.”
Christmas cards are very special to Ferber. She decorates them every year. She also loves getting cards. “Many years ago, my niece was in the hospital with cancer, and she had a very boring room with adult décor,” she explained. “Someone went and hung up a colorful picture for her, and it really changed the way she felt. My goal with this project is to dump an avalanche of color for the kids in those hospital rooms.”
When those droves of cards hit the mail, the effect is almost magical. Local recipients of Operation Christmas Cheer include Tyler Corvin, a 15-year-old with severe epilepsy, Leah Storm, featured in last week’s paper, and Zachary Swart, who is continuing his recovery from leukemia.
Macalister Davison sadly passed from neuroblastoma several years ago,
“For kids with chronic illnesses, it’s always a good thing for them to receive mail,” said Tyler Corvin’s mother, April. “Tyler always says to me, ‘Why do I have to go to the hospital, why do I have to be different, are these treatments going to make me normal?’ He wants to have friends and socialize just like everyone else. By getting cards in the mail, he feels like he has friends.”
Zachary Swart’s mother, Nancy, was thankful for the program. “We so appreciated the incredible generosity of Operation Christmas Cheer when our son was undergoing his chemo treatments. So lovely to have such encouraging messages and warm thoughts during the holiday season. These cards brought comfort to Zach during a most difficult time.”
With the Thanksgiving weekend upon us, there is no better time to get involved. Interested people can find information over the next few weeks at Operation Christmas Cheer’s Facebook page.