“There’s nothing greater than to be a part of any organization that supports military families,” Tom Ramsey, president and founder of Celebration of Love, said, adding that the volunteers are the “fabric of the organization.”
Celebration of Love, a nonprofit organization, gifted more than 1,300 bikes and 8,000 toys to more than 800 military families on Fort Hood Friday at Hanger 6978.
More than 600 volunteers were at the heart of the event, which consisted of a bike assembly on Dec. 11, a Christmas toy sorting on Dec. 12, and the main event Friday night. The volunteers were the ones who made the gift-giving celebration possible. Also, a car was gifted to a military parent in need and two electric scooters were raffled off.
“It’s not about a handout,” Ramsey said. “It’s about a hand-up.”
Staff Sgt. Melissa Axtell, a 1st Cavalry Division Religious Affairs Soldier, was one of the hundreds of volunteers who had one goal in mind.
“We just want to show them love. We just want to show them that the community is here to help,” she said about military families. “Sometimes the holidays get a little bit expensive. Some of these Soldiers don’t make that much money. It’s nice to just show them love and that we are here as one big family – one big community.”
Axtell, who has been in the Army for almost 20 years, said although Soldiers volunteered to serve, their families didn’t.
“They haven’t volunteered for this stuff, but they are along for the ride and all the support that our families give us, to keep us doing our mission, it’s nice to be able to include them and show them love as well,” she said.
Although she doesn’t have children herself, she understands the impact the Army can have on military children.
“It’s hard enough on troops – to do what we do, it’s even harder on the children,” Axtell said. “So doing an event like this, to show that we care. I think it’s a big deal.”
She said she enjoyed making Christmas possible for the children on Fort Hood.
“It’s just so awesome to see the kids come in. We get the stage lit up for the opening ceremony, have a lot of entertainment, good food,” Axtell said. “Kids get all hyped up and their faces are glowing.”
Celebration of Love didn’t pull off this celebration alone.
“I’m grateful for the donors, with Celebration of Love – the people who have given so much to make this happen – just a huge thanks to them,” Axtell said.
Ramsey said the celebration was for all the sacrifices Soldiers and their families have endured for the sake of the nation’s freedom.
“This is nothing in comparison to what our military families go through,” he said. “We’re just doing an act of kindness, love and generosity with our community.”
Ramsey shared the thought of a child not being able to celebrate Christmas, because of financial difficulties, is disappointing.
“It really breaks my heart,” he said. “It may be something small for an adult, but for a child it’s a big thing. They look forward to Christmas being joyful.”
This year, the organization was able to gift each child three toys.
“It is important to me, because if I can make that small impact of a toy and a bike – man, that’s why I do what I do,” Ramsey said.
Chaplain (Maj.) Mark Musser, officer in charge of Celebration of Love, said Soldiers applied for assistance through either their unit ministry teams or the Fort Hood Garrison’s Chaplain Office, no questions asked.
Musser said that the true meaning of Christmas is love.
“This organization hits humanity right at its core – love. This organization meets the need of humanity right at its core – love,” Musser said. “They don’t discriminate. They do one thing – love. And that’s the true meaning.”
Axtell said that during the holidays, Soldiers and their families face many difficulties. “Number one is separation from family,” Musser said. “Financial struggle, which this organization (Celebration of Love) doesn’t meet, but exceeds.”
More than 2,500 Fort Hood community members, Soldiers and their family members attended this year’s celebration.
“This time next year, my greatest Christmas gift, is going to be reflecting back on this event,” Musser said. “For military families that are away from their families, events like this are so meaningful.”