Carl Perkins Christmas party provides gifts, joy for Jackson children in need

Chelsea Gwaltney (right) and Taylor Faulkner, sophomore nursing majors, put bags filled with toys for the Carl Perkins Christmas event into the trunk of a car outside Target. | Photo by Jacob Moore

By Kathryn Flippin, Life Editor

Students, faculty, staff and about 50 children gathered Dec. 1 for the Carl Perkins Christmas party hosted by the Student Activities Council.

Each of these children had been referred to the Carl Perkins Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse because of suspicious acts of child abuse witnessed by the Department of Human Services. Because of their unusual circumstances, many of these children would not have a normal Christmas in a caring home.

SAC began planning with the Carl Perkins Center in October to find sponsors for each child. Organizations, athletic teams and friend groups from Union come together to support these underprivileged children who would otherwise have no Christmas.

Each sponsor was responsible for providing gifts with a budget from $75 to $80 dollars. The children gave wish lists for each group to find relevant items.

Rachael Taylor, senior elementary education major and president of Student Tennessee Education Association, said STEA members find the shopping experience to be one of the most enjoyable aspects of the process.

“We designate people to take the shopping list and get as many of the child’s favored items as possible,” Taylor said. “It is such a joy to witness the look on (the children’s) faces when they open their presents and get exactly what they asked for.”

Taylor, who has helped out for the past two years, also said the experience of being around the child for possibly their first real Christmas is unlike anything else.

Each sponsor group will also send one or two people to enjoy dinner in the Brewer Dining Hall with the children.

After dinner, each guest will head to the Bowld Student Commons gym where they will be greeted by an array of Christmas decorations. Natalie Wittman, senior Spanish major and decorating chair for SAC’s Carl Perkins Christmas committee, said the commons will be completely decked out in lights and other decorations to provide the traditional Christmas feel.

After serving on the committee for three years, Wittman said it is an intrinsic thing to witness the children’s expressions as they enter the gym.

“When they realize somebody cares enough to decorate and buy specifically for them, they are overcome with joy, and you can only sit there and be amazed at how big something like this can be for their lives,” Wittman said.

The students designated to attend from the participating organizations or groups join their child after the gifts have been opened as they stand in line to meet Santa and move to the different crafting stations around the gym.

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The Cardinal & Cream is a student publication of Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. Our staff ranges from freshmen to seniors and includes a variety of majors — including journalism, public relations, advertising, marketing, digital media studies, graphic design and art majors.