NORTH ANDOVER, MA – Around 125 military families got the chance to get into the holiday spirit on Saturday morning, receiving their very own Christmas trees, among other goodies, at USO’s third annual Trees For Troops event at Smolak Farms.
Families who showed up didn’t let the cold, rainy conditions dampen their moods as they walked through the rows of Christmas trees to find the perfect one for their homes. Bruins Assistant Coach Doug Houda, alongside Blades, assisted Joshua Thomas, an electronics technician for the Coast Guard, and his wife Becky find the perfect tree to commemorate their nearly 10-month-old daughter Fynn’s first Christmas.
“This was awesome. This was actually the first time that I’ve ever had a real Christmas tree in my life,” said Becky, playfully adding, “so it was quite the treat getting Mr. Doug over there to pick it out for us.”
Coach appreciated helping out the family and believes that anytime you can show support for the service members is “huge.” “This is just baby steps for us helping them,” he said. “It was just a great time just to meet them and get out there and get involved a little bit with them.”
This event involved more than just the trees. The wooden barn served as an area where families could go and enjoy various activities while taking a break from the cold weather. On the first floor, Santa sat in a metal-framed sleigh where children could tell him their wish lists. Up the stairs, parents and their children could participate in various activities like gift wrapping, face painting and creating their own holiday cards. Bruins ornaments were also passed out to families.
Lu Goncalves-Getty, Director of Strategic Philanthropy for BAE Systems, which funded the event, said that Trees For Troops, in its third year at Smolak Farms, is an important tradition because it honors the shared sacrifices military families make.
“It really isn’t just about the individuals that are deployed, but it’s about the families who also sacrifice day in and day out,” she said. “That’s very important to us and this is a very small way of giving back to them at the Christmas season.”
Tracee Long, who’s husband is currently deployed to Afghanistan for the next seven months, came with her children and is so thankful for events that provide families like her with support, especially during the holiday season. And it was an added treat to have the Bruins there.
“It’s been a wonderful time for the kids and something that they really need during the holidays,” she said. “Just the extra support it’s been really great for me and I really do appreciate it.”