PALMER — As the Christmas lights dimmed on 2016, it may have been the cheer and goodwill of a few Lady Lions that restored hope for the months to follow.
Twas the season to give and the Southwestern Assemblies of God University (SAGU) women’s basketball team was certainly in the Christmas spirit after helping Palmer Elementary School give local students a Christmas to remember.
"We really wanted to do something special this Christmas with our team,” said Tiffany Phillips, the head women's basketball coach at SAGU. "We thought about several different options and then I decided to reach out to Mrs. Gina Godding. She was very excited about the possibility of us working with Palmer Elementary.
Each Lady Lion picked a child based on age and gender and went shopping for specially chosen items for the student. Once they arrived at the school, Each basketball player had an opportunity to give their child their gifts.
“One little girl got a princess outfit with a crown and all," Phillips said. "There were several baseballs, Ninja Turtle things and superhero stuff. Some of the stories I heard were super special. The girls really put a lot of thought and detail into the gifts."
A boy and a girl from each grade level, pre-k to fourth, were chosen to be the recipient of the blessing box.
The Lady Lions continued to spread holiday cheer to the Palmer community, not limiting themselves to only bringing holiday cheer to the elementary school. Though the family escaped without harm, the home of a Pre-Kindergarten student that received a blessing box burned down Dec. 17.
The family lost everything — clothing, valuables and memories.
By the following Monday, the Lady Lions had rallied donations through a drive for clothes and gift cards for the family. Through their efforts, they were able to add their contributions to those raised by the community of Palmer, which totaled over $7,000.
In addition to the blessing boxes, SAGU was able to partner with Palmer Elementary and the Fall in Love with a Good Book campaign to distribute nearly 500 books to the students.
“The looks on not only the student’s faces but the player’s faces when they opened the blessing boxes was a gift in itself," said Allyson Spurgeon, the principal of Palmer Elementary. Their visits and dedication to helping someone in need were a joy to see. It's the true meaning of Christmas.”