Gifts from basketballs to Barbies fill the Christmas wish lists of 80 children on the Hopkinsville-Christian County YMCA's Angel Tree.

Children included on the Angel Tree participate in the Y's Pryme Tyme afterschool programs at Martin Luther King Jr. and Freedom elementary schools.

"We will probably most likely be their only Christmas," said Kristen Lilly, associate executive director at the YMCA. "What they get here will be their Christmas."

Lilly estimates 99% of the boys and girls on the Angel Tree list come from low-income, single-parent homes. Children range in age from kindergarten through fifth grade.

To protect the children and families, Lilly said the program keeps the recipients' names and ages confidential.

"We don't want anyone to feel uncomfortable," she said.

YMCA personnel and parents have filled out Christmas lists for the children included on the Angel Tree. The lists have been reviewed and printed onto paper angel ornaments that hang on the Christmas tree in the YMCA lobby -- ready to be selected.

Individuals and families select angel ornaments and sign for them at the YMCA. Then, they go shopping for the items on the wish list -- and sometimes a little more.

Lilly said gift-giving usually starts at $25 per child.

"We have a lot of families that go way beyond, which is so amazing," she said. "We have people who get exactly what's on the list. We have people who go out and are extravagant. We are so appreciative of all of that."

The children's wish lists include coats, pajamas, clothes, gloves as well as toys.

"Mostly this year it's dolls, Monopoly, Connect 4, board games or slime kits," said Shanna Rutherford, member services associate at the YMCA. "Everyone wants slime these days."

All gifts must be purchased and returned -- unwrapped -- to the YMCA by Dec. 9.

"We do all the wrapping," Lilly said. "We've got to make sure everybody gets what they need."

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When all of the presents have been wrapped, Lilly said the parents are called to pick up the gifts to take home before Christmas.

For individuals who want to adopt an angel, but do not want to shop, Lilly said the YMCA will accept donations for that child.

"We will do the shopping for them," she said.

Lilly said general donations to the Angel Tree program also are accepted, with any funds divided equally among each child.

"It's giving back to your community," Rutherford said. "You can give to all of these other organizations on a larger scale all you want, but if you're not supporting what's right there at home, then you're not really making a difference."

Lilly said the program has been a special gift for the children in the community for more than 15 years.

"Why wouldn't we do it," Lilly said. "These kids are in our program. We know the needs in this community. We know these kids personally. We know their families. We need to be here for them. These are Y kids."

Reach Michele Vowell at 270-887-3242 or mvowell@kentuckynewera.com.

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