Spreading Holiday Cheer

Hunter King, Staff Member

Reading Time: 3 minutes

When people think of Christmas, they might think of waking up on Christmas and opening presents or giving presents to a loved one, but what would Christmas be like if that didn’t happen? Youth Service Specialist at Cypress Falls, Carrie Harris, didn’t want any family to miss out on the joy of Christmas.


Mrs. Harris created the Adopt a Family program at Cy Falls to help families who are struggling financially during the holidays and provide Christmas gifts.


“It’s filled with families that are struggling financially and sometimes there are more things going on like medical issues, death in the family or some kind of loss to where money is going to be paid for those things and they aren’t going to be able to financially provide gifts for their kids,” Harris said. “So Adopt a Family gives staff and students at Cypress Falls the opportunity to provide gifts for those in need.”


When Mrs. Harris started working at Cypress Falls 11 years ago, she realized families needed help for Christmas, but there were no resources for them to get assistance, so she met with the counseling team at Cy Falls for ideas.


“I started getting requests from families that needed help for Christmas,” Harris said. “There were some community resources, but the deadlines for those had already passed. So I brainstormed with the counseling team here and said this is what I want to do and what do you think about just opening up the opportunity to staff and students to see if they might want to help these families. The team said it was a great idea and so we did and I think that first year we served between 60 and 70 kids.”


Every year, Mrs. Harris sends an email to the staff at Cy Falls and they can then sign up to adopt an anonymous family. Teachers will get a list of what the person wants and then they can go out and shop for the family, or the class can participate and bring gifts. There are certain cases where students don’t have to be in an organization or maybe aren’t in a class that participates, but they can still help.


“If a student heard about the program and wanted to be involved, one thing they could do is come to me and ask what organizations are involved or go to a teacher and say that they want to do it,” Harris said. “Another way a student could adopt a family is that they could get a group of friends together and say that they want to shop for a kid for Christmas and then come see me.”


Over the last few years, Mrs. Harris has seen the influence that the program has made on students at Cy Falls.


“It’s a really important lesson to give back to others,” Harris said. “It’s important to appreciate what you have and how to give some of what you have to people who are less fortunate. I think that’s a big part of what the holidays are all about. It’s a time for giving, not just getting, and so I think the way Adopt A Family influences students is because it gives them a tangible way to feel what it feels like to give to somebody in need. The cool thing about Adopt A Family is that it’s all anonymous and so students are doing all of this for kids that they’ll never meet.”


Mrs. Harris expressed how she wants the opportunity to give to expand and the number of families in need to shrink for the coming years. She recalled the time when she got more requests, and student organizations stepped up to provide Christmas for those who needed assistance.

I’d say Cypress Falls is the most generous in the whole district, obviously I’m biased, but I say that because I send out that email and I get 10 to 20 student organizations that want to help,” Harris said. “Just the spirit of giving is overwhelming and that’s why we rock.”