Christmas — it’s joy and magic and wonder.

And for some, it can also mean stress, financial burdens and disappointment.

That’s why at The Club for Boys we orchestrate a month of activities and programming that supports our families, celebrates each individual boy and encourages our members to be generous and kind all year long.

I am like anyone else. I can get swept away with the Christmas meals and shopping, holiday parties and presents. But spending time at the Club as Christmas approaches is humbling and oftentimes a colorful reminder of what the season is truly about.

I am particularly amazed each year at the excitement and energy surrounding one of our most popular December traditions, the Christmas tree sale. It is such an honor each year to watch our older boys help hundreds of families pick out the perfect tree. If it’s cold, the day has been long, or the work hard, you wouldn’t know it from the looks on their faces or the pleasant interactions they have with customers.

There is no doubt that the boys are learning the meaning of hard work, but it’s also an education for the community. People who might not have otherwise visited our thrift store or set foot on The Club for Boys property are face-to-face with funny, smart and enterprising youth.

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The number of families who have made The Club for Boys Christmas tree sale a part of their annual tradition is incredible. The money we raise during the sale is used all year long and we count on it to continue to offer quality programming. My own family has been purchasing a tree from the Club for more than 20 years, a time-honored tradition we’ve continued because the one time we didn’t — long before I was associated with the Club — I heard about it from my adult daughters.

Inside The Club, our members look forward to traditions we have created, particularly our Christmas party. Thanks to a generous community and local businesses, we are able to make sure each boy has presents to take home. The kindness is contagious.

I have witnessed so many moments when boys, with little or no resources, have blessed a sibling or parent for Christmas. Oftentimes, it only took a little creativity. Other times, it was a purposeful decision to sacrifice or share.

That’s when I am most sure that we are doing the right things here at the Club and that as we move into a New Year, we can do even better. Christmas has been — and always will be — a time of sincere celebration at The Club for Boys. We go out of our way to create memories. It is our hope that someday these boys will turn into men and continue the legacy of generosity and caring that they see witnessed here at Christmas and all year long.

Doug Herrmann is the executive director of The Club for Boys in Rapid City.

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