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The joy of a child

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The little girl came into our office looking every bit like a 3-year-old should. Dressed in pinks and purples, her hair done up in neat little braids that were adorned with colorful beads that jangled when she walked. And in her hands was a giant Christmas stocking that was easily twice her size.


And the reason she was carrying that stocking was as precious as the little girl herself.


One week ago, the Bladen Journal staff had the opportunity to play Santa, giving out gift cards to Walmart and/or Leinwand’s to more than 90 local families who needed a little help in bringing a nice Christmas to their children.


It’s always a hectic, but rewarding day-long event.


Throughout the day, we were all witness to some seriously appreciative folks, as well as to numerous tears falling to the floor of our office as they clutched their gift cards and headed out the door. All of this simply melts our hearts and, no matter how difficult the effort is leading up to this day, those things always make it worthwhile for us.


And generally, there is one moment during the day that stands out to all of us — almost as if a bright light shines down.


Last week, that bright light was on this little 3-year-old.


I don’t know the little girl’s name, and sadly I didn’t get to witness the second part of this story. But my staff took great pleasure in telling me the r-r-r-r-r-rest of this story.


The little girl had initially come in with what we believe was her grandmother, a woman who navigated her way into our office in a wheelchair with the little girl following close behind. While much of the attention was paid to the little girl with the pink and purple clothes, colorful beads in her hair and giant Christmas stocking, the woman accepted the Walmart gift card.


It was during this time that I couldn’t resist, and presented the little girl with a children’s book about a princess and a green cross necklace (her favorite color).


And off they went.


Now, once the gift cards go out the door, we usually have no idea what they are used for or when — especially the Walmart cards. We often watch as folks we have just given Leinwand’s cards to walk past our window with Leinwand’s bags filled with newly purchased treasures, but Walmart is another story.


Apparently, while I was in the back on another matter later in the day, the little girl returned — this time with whom we believe was her grandfather. And the reason for the visit would not have fit into that oversized stocking she had.


“She just had to come by and tell you about the bicycle she got with your gift card,” we were told.


From what I gathered, the little girl was just as proud of her first bicycle as she could be. I will assume it had training wheels, but I’m not sure. I do know, however, that the bicycle was pink.


I also know, from the reports I was given, that the smile on the little girl’s face was big enough to light up downtown Elizabethtown.


OK, now if all that isn’t enough to eject an “awwwwwwwwwww” from deep inside, there’s a bit more.


Perhaps some of you wondered why this 3-year-old brought a huge Christmas stocking to our office. Well, I wondered the same thing … so I asked.


What I found out is that the little girl was told they would be coming to the Bladen Journal to pick up their Empty Stocking gift — and the youngster was insistent in bringing along her enormous EMPTY Christmas stocking. I can only assume she was under the impression that it would be filled once she arrived.


Well, only the little children’s book found its way into that stocking. But I’m pretty sure that, between the new pink bicycle and tremendous smile it put on her face, the little girl’s Christmas stocking was quickly overflowing.


A huge Christmas thank-you goes out to all of those who were so generous and helped the annual Empty Stocking Fund reach the incredible amount of more than $13,000 — helping is to bring a happier Christmas to more than 200 area children. And I should also give huge kudos to the folks at Bladen County Department of Social Services, who administered the applications for this effort.


It really is a tremendous team effort.


W. Curt Vincent is the general manager and editor of the Bladen Journal. He can be reached by calling 910-862-4163 or by email at cvincent@civitasmedia.com.

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