Indiana Blue Star Spirit of Christmas gives struggling military families a happy holiday and needed support
Volunteers: ‘This is the reason we do what we do’
By Lindsay Doty
With a unicorn freshly painted on her face, 4-year-old Maken-z enthusiastically tore open her new Barbie DreamHouse at the Blue Star Spirit of Christmas party. The little girl was among 62 children buzzing around the annual holiday event held on Dec. 21 at the Hendricks County fairgrounds.
The American Legion Post in Avon, along with the help of community sponsors, raised $40,000 to fulfill the wish lists of 21 military families in need.
Santa and Mrs.Claus arrived on a Vietnam Huey helicopter to deliver the packages, everything from dolls and Legos for the kids to a new washing machine for mom or dad.
Photo by Rick Myers
“People ask me why I do what I do, seeing the faces and getting the thank yous, that’s it. It changes your heart,” said Ralph “Zoc” Zoccolillo, the Indiana Blue Star chairman from Avon.
“It just brings tears to your eyes,” said Zoccolillo.
The families included three Gold Star members who have lost loved ones. Like Kimberly Lambdin from Pittsboro, who lost her husband Wayne, an Army medic, a year ago.
“I have been trying to keep a ‘normalcy’ for my 4 kids and my head above water since that day of losing Wayne. Things have fallen into place and we’re working towards a new normal amongst the tears and heartbreak,” said Lambdin.
She was hesitant to participate in the Christmas program but is thankful she did.
“What we witnessed that day seriously changed my life. Meeting the other Gold Star families and embracing those that work so very hard to lighten the burden of stress around the holidays and in life…well, it was like ‘coming home’ to those that understood,” she said in a thank you note to Zoccolillo.
“She lost father and husband a year ago in January. This is their first Christmas without a father and husband. That thank you is why we do this.”
A veteran himself, the 71-year-old recent retiree from A T&T thrives on volunteering. It started back in his New York days with the Red Cross and has only increased since taking on the Blue Star Spirit of Christmas event.
“It is a wonderful day to give back to families who give back and make the sacrifice so we can continue to have the freedoms we have. We can’t thank them enough. I feel blessed.”
The work doesn’t stop once then the holidays are over. The Blue Star committee works all year to fundraise. Their next big event will come in June with the Ride for the Salute bike ride that raises funds for the Christmas party.