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Three friends reach out to help other children

The Christmas spirit arrived early for Karissa Rother, 12, and her neighbors and friends Halie and Mikaela Harder, 10 and 12 respectively.

Through hard work, time and a desire to help others, the three friends, who live next door to each other on Owen Avenue just south of Hastings, will reach out to children thousands of miles away this holiday season.

Their project was to fill as many shoeboxes as possible through the international organization, Operation Christmas Child. The organization sends shoeboxes filled with small gifts and other items to children throughout the world.

This particular idea began with Karissa.

"About a month ago, I was thinking about some of my favorite people, how good they were and how they helped other people," she said. "We have received a catalog about Operation Christmas Child - and each of us had participated separately in the past.

"So I thought if we could get some money, we could do more," she said. "Halie and Mikaela live across the trees and I asked them."

"We liked the idea," said Halie. "We knew we had to work because it cost $7 just to send each shoe box. "

So the three young volunteers went door-to-door in their neighborhood (always with an adult) and across Highway 316 to part of the Bauer Circle neighborhood. For the most part, people were very receptive. Several gave large donations.

"One said you're doing such a good thing," said Halie.

They collected about $230 and then went shopping in Hastings. There, with a list of suggested items, the girls bought items such as toothpaste, brushes, hair items, small stuffed animals and dolls and gum for boys and girls ages 2 to 14. A total of 17 shoe boxes were filled then wrapped in Christmas wrapping paper. Each box also contained the necessary postage money.

The packages will be delivered to a church in Red Wing next Monday so they can be shipped overseas.

The shopping left good feelings with the girls.

"We felt bad that some kids don't get any toys," said Mikaela.

"We get a lot of Christmas presents," said Halie.

"It's so cool," said Karissa. "The little things are the coolest things to a lot of the kids."