Each holiday season, the Petes welcome volunteers of Operation Christmas Child to several home games as part of their annual campaign. Over the course of a few games, generous fans fill shoeboxes with small gifts and drop them off at a game. For most, that will be the last they see of the shoeboxes. For Petes Head Trainer Brian Miller, that’s just the beginning.
Brian and his wife, Esther, recently returned from El Salvador, along with 16 others, where they volunteered with Operation Christmas Child to distribute shoeboxes. The group of Canadians from Nova Scotia, Vancouver Island and everywhere in between, were based in the city of San Salvador, in a valley between two volcanoes.
Once shoeboxes are received by OCC, they’re sorted then shipped to over 100 countries throughout the world. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the destinations, be it geographical, political or otherwise, shoeboxes can take up to a year to make it to their final destination.
When the shoeboxes arrive, volunteers like Brian and Esther take part in community events to distribute the boxes, like the ones the Petes pack each fall, to children in need.
Brian says it’s a privilege to get to hand out the shoeboxes, especially while wearing one of the Operation Christmas Child Ugly Sweater jerseys that the Petes wore for a game last season.
“It’s one thing to pack a shoebox, but it’s a whole different experience to hand them out,” noted Brian. “Regardless of who packed it, to see the shoeboxes reach their final destination, and to be part of providing something that the children are so appreciative of, is incredible. They receive the shoeboxes with such joy and enthusiasm.”
The children are not just grateful for the physical gifts they receive. To have visitors from Canada provides another kind of excitement.
“Everything was decorated red and white, with lots of Canadian flags,” Brian mentioned. “They were so elated to have people visit from Canada.”
After the shoeboxes are distributed, the recipients are invited to take part in a 12-lesson program called “The Greatest Journey”, culminating in a graduation. Brian and Esther were lucky enough to attend the graduation ceremony of the children who had received shoeboxes 12 weeks prior to their trip.
The Petes will welcome Operation Christmas Child back to the PMC this fall. Click here to learn more about OCC.