Several years ago, one of my students, Randy Baccomo and his wife Lisa, decided to spread a little Christmas cheer to some of Columbia’s forgotten.
“During the morning on Christmas Eve, Lisa and I were doing some last minute Christmas shopping,” Randy commented, “and it was colder than normal. “We were walking the isles at Walmart and we came across an end cap of fleece blankets. I can’t remember if it was me or Lisa, but suddenly it occurred to us that the homeless downtown would probably be cold that night and it might be nice to hand out some blankets.”
So they purchased about a dozen blankets, a few hats and a few pair of socks.
After eating dinner, they decided to go out around 7:00 p.m. They stopped at a few places but didn’t find anyone until they stopped at Finley Park. At the time, Finley Park was a popular hangout for the area’s homeless because there was a good amount of space to hunker down for the evening.
“When we got out of our car, it seemed they were a little bit suspicious, but once they realized we were wishing them a Merry Christmas and giving them a blanket and some candy, their faces lit up,” Randy stated.
Randy’s wife, Lisa was overwhelmed with their response, “One of the women in the group actually started to cry and couldn’t believe someone even cared.” “It was a very powerful experience!”
A week after Christmas, I was talking to Randy after class and he happened to mention what he and Lisa did on Christmas Eve. I was so taken by their experience, that I offered to get the dojo involved the following year.
Thus, began what is now known as the Randy’s Reindeer project.
Each year, beginning in November, SKS students and parents start collecting blankets, hats, gloves, jackets, socks, hard candies, and toiletry items. Then, a few days before Christmas Eve, all of the items are sorted and put into gift bags. Then, Randy leads a bunch of students and parents out on Christmas Eve and they hand out all of the gift bags.
Most years we put together 150 to 200 gift bags. One year we had over 300.
Several of our younger students who participated in this project with their parents loved the experience and were motivated to serve the community with their own project.
Black belt excellence!
This is what experiential leadership is all about.
If you or your company is interested in donating or participating in this community service project, please feel free to call or text Mr. Baccomo at 803-201-8450.