For 6th Annual Kylee’s Kare Kits for Kidz, That’s a Wrap in Leominster
LEOMINSTER -- Around 200 volunteers spent several hours wrapping Christmas gifts for local children on Sunday. Hundreds of donated items were collected as part of the sixth annual “Kylee’s Kare Kits for Kidz” program, a nonprofit founded in 2012 by 16-year-old Kylee McCumber of Leominster.
“We have so many people here just helping wrap, and many more will come throughout the day,” McCumber said at the Congregation Agudat Achim synagogue. “It’s amazing.”
McCumber, who is in 10th grade at the Winchendon School, said she was motivated to action six years ago when she became concerned that some of her classmates at Skyview Middle School might not have enough to eat on the weekends. What started out as a way to provide donated food for a dozen or so children every week eventually expanded into a program that now provides nearly 400 gifts for children in need during the holiday season. That’s about double the number of donated items that were collected for the program last year, according to organizers.
McCumber’s grandmother, Lori Bateman, said the annual tradition of collecting, wrapping, and distributing the gifts had quickly become her favorite activity.
“Being able to brighten the Christmas of so many children is just a special feeling,” Bateman said, adding that dozens of volunteers pitched in on Saturday to help prep for the event. “It warms your heart; there’s nothing better than this. It’s just a community event that’s just wonderful.”
Among the volunteers who were busy measuring and scissoring gift paper, then wrapping and taping packages in the hectic activity was nine-year-old Annika Hjelm of Leominster. She said the event was a special opportunity for her to help other children who otherwise might not receive many gifts for Christmas.
“I think this is really great,” Hjelm said, adding that Sunday marked her second year volunteering to help wrap gifts for the program. She said she was “pretty good” at wrapping gifts, but admitted she would probably be much better at it by the end of the afternoon. “I just got here so (we’ve) only done two bags,” she said.
Volunteer Cathy Reynolds of Leominster choked back tears as she explained how much it meant for her to be part of the noble effort McCumber put into motion as a child.
“We’re helping so many people in the community that without Kylee, Lori, and the whole team, wouldn’t have such a nice Christmas each year,” Reynolds said.
After the marathon, four-hour wrapping session, Santa and Mrs. Claus arrived at the synagogue to greet each family on the collection list and hand out gifts to the children.
“Just seeing the smiles on (the children’s) faces as they get to sit with Santa and receive a gift is just magical,” said McCumber.
Reynolds said it was important to remember that “Kylee’s Kare Kits for Kidz” remained a year-round effort to help those less fortunate in the community.
“This doesn’t happen just at Christmas or at Thanksgiving, (the program) provides food and other necessities to about 430 kids 52 weeks a year,” Reynolds said.
McCumber said she hoped the movement she began as a child would continue to grow in the years to come.
“When we first started, we did (the wrapping party) in our house and we had 25 volunteers, and then it grew to having to find somewhere to be able to do it, and it’s just grown every year since,” McCumber said.
Bateman said the sheer number of gifts and volunteers needed to pull off the event each holiday season was a tribute to just how giving residents were at this time of year.
“When you look at the sea of gifts that were donated -- along with what we call ‘fillers’ so that each child will have a full bag of gifts -- it’s a testament to our community and how wonderful and caring they all are,” Bateman said.