Once again this year, pilots will be dropping off thousands of gifts for foster children at Eagle Village in Osceola County.
Operation Good Cheer started more than 30 years ago in 1971 when they started giving gifts to just 66 foster kids. Now, in 2022, they’ve expanded giving gifts to over 6,500 kids.
The program is headed up by Eagle Village’s Kathy Lockhart, and has been since it’s inception 31 years ago.
Foster kids send out their wish list to participating companies who will buy three gifts for a child. The gifts are then flown to Roben-Hood Airport in Big Rapids, then distributed to children at Eagle Village.
The President of Eagle Village, Cathey Prudhomme, says Operation Good Cheer is the first normal experience a lot of kids have with Christmas. She says she remembers last year when a 16-year-old girl was opening her Christmas gift very slowly.
“I said, ‘come on hurry up, we’ve got lot’s to do today.’ She looked at me and she says, ‘this is the first time I’ve ever gotten a Christmas gift, and definitely the first time anything’s been wrapped,'” Prudhomme recalls.
Both Lockhart and Prudhomme says they and the staff look forward to Operation Good Cheer, and the joy, it brings every year.
“We’ve been doing this for 30 years and we’ve seen this whole program really grow. Our hope is that the pilots that participate, the people that shop for the gifts, that they really do understand that it takes a village, and they’re part of our village,” Prudhomme says.