Chrismas Made Brighter for Children of Prisoners
Sally Overturf has helped deliver gifts to 570 kids this Christmas in southern Illinois. But the gifts aren't from an organization or an anonymous person--they're from a mom or dad who is serving time in prison. Overturf is one of a very small group of local volunteers with the Prison Ministry's Angel Tree program.
"To see their face just light up, it feels really good inside and it makes you want to cry," said Overturf.
When Overturf puts gifts under the tree, she's making sure the kids aren't punished for a parent's crime.
"It's not the children' fault. The parents can do what they want, and they've gone away for a reason, but we can't blame the children for that, and they shouldn't have to suffer, especially during the holidays," Overturf said.
Among those children is 7-year-old Kendall of Carbondale. His dad is serving 20 years in federal prison. His mom, Debie Cook is a single mother who's putting herself through college trying to give her three kids a better life; but right now times are tough.
"I'm a student. I'm pretty depressed about Christmas, I can't buy anything, I didn't wrap anything, I didn't even want to put my tree up, because I was like what's the point, there's not going to be a Christmas here this year," Cook said.
All Kendall wanted for Christmas was a pair of "Heely's" shoes. They have wheels in the heel, and apparently Kendall wanted them so badly he tried to convert an old pair of shoes into "Heely's".
"He scratched out the soles of his shoes so he could slide across the ground and tell everybody he had Heely's," said Cook.
Cook says there was no way she could afford to buy a pair for Kendall. .When Angel Tree volunteers called and offered to help, she decided she wanted to join the Angel Tree effort to help give other families the joy her family found this Christmas.
"Just being able to go buy presents and wrap presents, that whole next day I was singing Christmas carols. I put more ornaments on my tree and I looked forward to Christmas that my child might actually get the one thing he actually wanted, and that he might get it from his dad," said Cook.
Christmas was made much merrier for Kendall. He wheels all over the place in his new "Heely's", and Cook says volunteering with the Angel Tree has become a new holiday tradition for her family.
"Kendall has gotten to deliver presents to other kids just like him, who are in the same shoes," said Cook.