Monday, December 23, 2013

Holiday Cheer for Walter Reed Families

By Dana Ayers, Volunteer Contributor

Two Saturdays ago, I spent the afternoon with ladies from the local Red Cross Tiffany Circle chapter as they wrapped gifts for families spending Christmas at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. 

The Tiffany Circle is a society of women leaders and philanthropists who invest a minimum of $10,000 annually to the Red Cross. This particular chapter appeared to be going above and beyond that requirement, and had joined forces with Operation Covert Santa for the third year in a row. Operation Covert Santa’s mission is to find out what the families of wounded service members at Walter Reed need for the holiday and then match donors to supply those needs anonymously. The donors do not know the families’ identities, and the families do not know the donors.  It really is like the gifts just come from Santa. 

One of the Tiffany Circle chapter chairs, Dale Koepenick, is actually friends with "Husky Elf," the founder of Operation Covert Santa, and this is how the chapter got involved. This year, the chapter supported four different families. “The Tiffany Circle has just been super in supporting this project and it just proves it’s better to give than to receive,” Dale shared.

And give these ladies do. Beyond the Tiffany Circle member requirements, the DC chapter focuses efforts in three other areas: 
  • Social Service (like Operation Covert Santa and giving Bubbles Salon makeovers twice a year to ladies living at Walter Reed)
  • Socials (like participating in an annual gala where distinguished woman warriors are honored)
  • And Preparedness and Education (like organizing CPR training for Circle members)
The gift wrapping party was held at the home of Vicki Iseman, one of the chapter members. She had laid out a wonderful spread of noshes and everything needed for wrapping. Dale began the event by reading the details of each of the families they were providing for.

While Husky Elf keeps the names of the families private, he does share a little about what they are facing. So, one by one, Dale read the details of the four recipients. Recipients like the US Army helicopter mechanic who sustained a serious spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury, and other injuries while serving in Afghanistan. He, his wife, and his four year old son were all getting gifts from Covert Santa, thanks to the Tiffany Circle.

After the descriptions were all read, the ladies dove in to wrap the gifts.        

Everyone was so happy to be able to provide in some way. “I’ve been privileged to support the men and women who serve our country and it’s my hope that we provide some comfort during this season for people who’ve  given so much to us,” Vicki said.

Not surprisingly, the group had gone above and beyond the list of requests and a member also secured a generous donation of jewelry sets from Stella and Dot as an added holiday surprise for all the female members of the families. 

As I got ready to leave, I got to see the line of gifts that were being shuttled to Dale's car for delivery to Husky. Thanks to these women, four more families trying to celebrate the holidays from a hospital room will at least get everything on their wish list and hopefully feel some of the magic of the holiday season. Just one more way the Red Cross supports our nation’s service members.

Visit the Red Cross in the National Capital Region for more information on the DC Tiffany Circle.

For more information on Operation Covert Santa, please contact Mary Jo Hoskyns at 

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