Starting the new year with a full heart

A tradition of giving back and blessing others at Christmastime

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Mother and daughter posing in front of a Christmas tree with arms full of gifts they are donating to kids

Cunningham’s Megan Grider, and her family, are starting off the new year with a full heart because of a special holiday tradition. Three years ago, when Megan was a part-time evening youth counselor in our Residential Treatment Center, she and her family discussed how they could give back and bless others at Christmastime. Inspired by Megan’s impactful work at Cunningham, they decided to support the youth close to her heart.

“I love the work that I do,” Megan shared. “When you’re working and even when you’re not working, Cunningham kids pull at your heart. It is hard to think about everything they’ve been through.”

Rebecca Grider, Megan’s mom, reached out to Brooke, Cunningham Associate director of Advancement, about getting involved with shopping for Christmas gifts for Cunningham kids and said,

“We learned about Cunningham when Megan started working there and we wanted to make Cunningham part of our Christmas!”

The Grider family asked if they could provide gifts specifically for a youth Megan was working with and Brooke was able to honor their request while maintaining the youth’s anonymity for safety and privacy reasons. The Griders were paired with Alan* and took on the task of finding the perfect gifts for the youngster. From light-up shoes to Pokémon cards, a DVD of the movie Blended, a black L.A. Dodgers fitted baseball cap, an art kit, and a comfy pillow, together, they meticulously fulfilled Alan’s wish list.

“I’m grateful for my loving family and how they love our kids from a distance,” Megan said. “We’ve got family members in Michigan, Bloomington and Champaign. Everyone wants to help out, whether they are shopping in stores or online to find exactly what was asked for.”

The family’s commitment to bringing joy to Cunningham youth has become a cherished part of their holiday season. This tradition has continued for three years and this past Christmas, they extended their generosity to students at Cunningham’s CIRCLE Academy-Vermilion program, where Megan now serves as the school social worker.

“You know something really hard has happened in their life,” Megan said, “and for my family and I to be able to do a little something special for them, so they can see they are loved and cared for, is really important.”

We are grateful for Megan and the Griders, and many families like them, who have made Cunningham part of their holiday traditions. Their love and generosity provide joy to our youth all year long.

*name has been changed to protect privacy