What’s on your Christmas list this year? For some children in Michigan, a pillow tops their list. Operation Good Cheer, organized by Child and Family Services of Michigan Inc. in Okemos, is an annual program designed to give children in foster care a holiday season filled with presents, happiness and love. Child and Family Services of Michigan provides opportunities to strengthen Michigan’s children and families through various member agencies – including Operation Good Cheer. The program began in 1971 with a humble 66 children. Now in its 42nd season, Operation Good Cheer serves more than 4,000 children in Michigan’s foster care system. Sherry Brackenwagen is the Administrative Director for Child and Family Services of Michigan and organizes much of the program. “Every child knows about Christmas, (and) these children are coming from situations or backgrounds where they wouldn’t have a Christmas,” said Brackenwagen, emphasizing the importance of the program. Michigan agencies dealing directly with children in foster care may submit children’s wish lists to Operation Good Cheer. These wish lists are the distributed to various donors, keeping the child’s identity anonymous. Donors must purchase a minimum of three gifts for the child. The gifts are then delivered all over the state during the first weekend in December. Brackenwagen added that many volunteers for Operation Good Cheer were recipients of the program in years past. The children’s wish lists contain both fun and practical items. A bike and a pillow are often neighbors – appearing simultaneously on a child’s Christmas List. Operation Good Cheer doesn’t end at Christmas. The Children’s Entitlement Fund is a year-round program that provides resources for children and youth in Michigan’s foster care system that promote a happy, healthy and well-rounded life. The Children’s Entitlement Fund allows foster care youth the opportunity to obtain many things that are often overlooked, such as age-appropriate eyeglasses, tutoring, senior pictures, orthodontic work and driver’s training. With more than 14,000 children and youth in foster care in Michigan, Brackenwagen hopes that Operation Good Cheer will continue to grow in order to meet the needs of every displaced child in Michigan. Good Cheer is always seeking future donors. Child and Family Services of Michigan, Inc. is located at 2157 University Park Drive in Okemos. They can be contacted by telephone at (517)349-6226 and by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Whitney Bunn is a junior at Michigan State University studying journalism and acting. An eternal optimist, Whitney loves yoga, dogs and everything French.