A pile of presents sat beside Miguel Tovar. His brother Luis had already ripped through his wrapped gifts and was moving excitedly about the room. Opened presents revealed everything from art supplies to Legos.
Three cheerleaders sat in front of Miguel. About five gifts remained in his pile. He readied himself for another wrapped gift. As the wrapping paper fell away, his eyes lit up. His mouth dropped open. Resting in his hands were several Nintendo DS games.
“Cool,” he said before finishing off unwrapping his gifts.
Melissa Barnett asked him if he liked his Nintendo DS games. He replied in the affirmative. She asked him how he would play the games. He shrugged.
Pulling out both a white and a black Nintendo DS, she asked if the handheld game systems would work.
“I’ve wanted one of these,” Miguel exclaimed when he received the electronic device. Luis held a matching one with round eyes. Large smiles spread across the faces of everyone from cheer coach Melissa Barnett to the boys’ teary-eyed grandma, Wanda Randolph.
She later thanked the girls for their generous surprise.
“I am happy they could help this year, and I thank God I have my grandchildren because that is what is most important,” Randolph said. “I am glad they helped out. I’ve never had anything like this done for me.”
Barnett said the girls would like to stay in contact with the little Tovars.
“They are a really good group of girls. When they see the families they just get so much more emotionally tied to it,” Barnett said. “I hope as they become adults and go to college, they keep finding situations where they can make an impact.”
The early Christmas surprise began with a tweet by Transitions Furniture director Daniel Murch.
According to Murch, the needs of three families he provided furniture for stood out to him. He said he did not believe their financial situation would allow them to do much for Christmas. All three families were sponsored by local groups.
“I’ve always wanted to do something like this before, but I never know what to do,” Murch said. “Since that tweet, I haven’t really done anything other than put them in contact with each other.”
Barnett presented the idea to the cheerleaders. Everyone agreed it was a great idea. They decided to forgo the annual Christmas dinner and instead used the money to purchase gifts.
Cheerleader Mariah Voytik said she and her teammates immediately started running with the idea.
“Every week when we would meet up for practice and games, we would just come up with more ideas,” Voytik said. “We got together and all brought things, and then just kept bringing more and more to do as much as we could.”
Continued Voytik, “We are so fortunate and we want to be able to help other people out. Our squad is so close, so it is kind of like a bonding experience when we can help people out.”
Barnett stresses service leadership to her cheerleaders. Skipping an end-of-semester banquet might become a tradition for the girls in red, blue and white. According to Barnett, the cheerleaders chose to run in a 5K for People for Care and Learning last spring instead of having a get together.
Voytik said she and her teammates see each other a lot.
“We are always together at games and practices, so we wanted to dedicate our Christmas party to someone else,” she said. “Seeing these two little boys so happy is better than a Christmas party anyway.”
The girls plan on making other holidays just as special for Miguel and Luis. They have also discussed the possibility of eating lunch with the boys once a month. The smiles plastered across Miguel and Luis’ face Thursday afternoon hint the boys would be just fine with those plans.