The teams arrived in cheerful clusters to the front lobby of Walmart on Dec. 16, with charitable hearts a-ready and gift lists in hand.
Three families-in-need were in the sights of the 17 teen volunteers from HRVHS — a mother and toddling son, a family of eight and another family of five.
Though their names would remain confidential, these families would not be forgotten this Christmas. That is because the Hood River Leos service club at the high school took on its 15th year of the “Hit and Run Santa” project, helping make Christmas bright for community members experiencing hard times.
According to longtime Leos advisor and Hood River Lions Club member Tom Schaefer, this year’s project began months earlier when these teens, and many others in the club, held a special bottle and can recycling drive at Rosauers grocery store. With the work of the Leos and the collected community donations, the funds for the Santa project purchases grew to a healthy sum.
“We shop, wrap and deliver the gifts to the doorsteps of the families,” said Schaefer. The teen “elves” ring the doorbell and then wait out of sight nearby to make sure the family collects the holiday surprises.
“This seemed like a good way to use my extra time ... helping other people,” said Sydney Endow, HRV sophomore.
The families helped through the project are all referred by Next Door Inc., a nonprofit that serves individuals and families in need throughout the Gorge.