With the Christmas season coming and going, gifts have been given and unwrapped. This year, several families in and around the Bullard area received special gifts thanks to the Bullard High School Angel Tree project.
“The response by everyone donating to the Angel Tree project this year was very overwhelming,” said Susan Paddack, BHS teacher and Angel Tree organizer. “There were a lot of blessed children through the Angel Tree, who might have not received gifts on Christmas if it wasn’t for this project. I wish I could have seen the kids’ faces on Christmas Day when they unwrapped their gifts. They were blessed, but we were definitely blessed in being able to make someone’s Christmas even more special.”
According to Paddack, this year’s Angel Tree project was started under the umbrella of the Panther Partners organization, established in the 2016-2017 school year by Bullard ISD Coordinator for Alterative Education and CTE Donna Jeffus, who served as the BHS Dean of Academics at the time.
“Mrs. Jeffus started the Angel Tree through Panther Partners last year,” said Paddack. “I don’t remember how many she had on the tree last year, but she did say that we more than doubled the amount from 2016-2017. Mindy Marse, who is another BHS teacher, and myself took on carrying on the Panther Partners idea after Mrs. Jeffus was promoted. We really didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into, but we wanted to continue Panther Partners because it’s such a beneficial program to the students at Bullard High School.”
The 2017 Bullard High School Angel Tree consisted of over 50 children, with community members, Bullard ISD student organizations, and more stepping up to the plate, leaving Paddack and Panther Partners searching for room to store the presents.
“When we first started with the Angel Tree this year, I went over to the administration office and jokingly said that all I would need was a closet to store the gifts,” said Paddack. “We actually ended up needing more space than that, because thanks to the generosity of our students and the Bullard community, we actually had to move the presents into the Bullard ISD Board of Trustees board room, and it was filled all around and we had to start stacking the gifts.”
Paddack said the Angel Tree project was more pointed to students in need attending Bullard High School. Once volunteers with the project reached out to the parents of the students, the decision was made to also include the high school student’s siblings in the gift giving.
“We had a plethora of gifts that were donated to children on the Angel Tree this year,” said Paddack. “We had bicycles, fishing poles, various gift cards, toys, and even a PlayStation 4. Despite a lot of wishes for certain items, a lot of the kids on the Angel Tree simply wished for clothes, something that’s a necessity. Those who are fortunate enough may take the idea of having clothes to wear for granted, but a lot of these kids simply wanted clothes that would help them fit in with their friends.”
With the overwhelming response to the project this year, Paddack said the generosity and Christmas spirit of the Bullard community was on full display, allowing the community to love on their own during the holiday season.
“I honestly thought a closet was going to be big enough,” said Paddack. “I would have never dreamed we would have filled the board room with that many gifts. It was simply amazing to also have people step up near the end of the project and say they wanted to buy the remainder of the gifts on the lists.”
After being sorted, the gifts donated for the BHS Angel Tree project were picked up by students’ family and friends to be placed under the tree for Christmas morning.
Despite being busy with studying and preparing for fall semester finals, several BHS student organizations pitched in to make the Christmas season bright by wrapping and packaging the gifts for the Angel Tree recipients.
“We had a lot of help from our amazing students in wrapping and preparing the gifts to be picked up,” said Paddack. “The FFA and floral design class really helped us with the wrapping, but we also had several athletic programs like the Bullard Lady Panther softball team, as well as groups like the National Honor Society and National Junior Honor Society, step up and go shopping together as teams and organizations for Christmas gifts for one or event multiple Angel Tree kids. Of course, all of this is anonymous; they don’t know the identity of the student they are shopping for. All of this hard work and effort by our students to make Christmas better for someone else is a great lesson for them to understand how fortunate they are to receive as much as they do, while others maybe aren’t so fortunate.”
Paddack also said the Angel Tree project would not have been as successful without the help from local community members, church groups, and businesses.
Personally, Paddack said by participating with Panther Partners in the 2017 BHS Angel Tree project helped to spark the Christmas spirit for herself.
“This project really helped to put me more into the Christmas spirit, personally,” said Paddack. “I’m glad I got to be a part of it and witness it. I was more in the Christmas spirit watching these students work together to wrap the gift to make Christmas more enjoyable for others than I’ve been in a while, and I’m just so thankful to have been a part of this project.”
In terms of the BHS Angel Tree project in the future, Paddack said she believes the project will incorporate additional campuses until it becomes a project throughout Bullard ISD.
“I think there were people already coming together to brainstorm and plan for next year’s Angel Tree already,” said Paddack. “I expect the project will soon increase to reach all of Bullard ISD’s campuses. I know for this year, each individual campus did their own projects. We all know that the Bullard community is second-to-none when it comes to giving and taking care of their own children, so I’m excited to see home the Angel Tree continues to grow in the future.”
According to Paddack, the response to the project this year was so great that the planning for the 2018 Panther Partners could start as soon as mid-October, in order to allow businesses, community members, and student organizations more time to purchase and prepare their Christmas gifts.