The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugarplums danced in their heads
This classic Christmas description hails from, “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” by Clement Clark Moore. Though it’s most commonly referred to by its famous first line — “’Twas the Night Before Christmas.”
It paints a time-honored picture of Christmas Eve and it’s the way that many envision the winter’s night — a roaring fire, matching pajamas and happy children.
But that is not the case for all little ones, as Rees Carroll knows all too well. The founder of the local non-profit Operation Bed Spread first became acquainted with the need while serving as a mentor in 2012. Then, the student he was working with couldn’t stay awake during the school day because he didn’t have a bed of his own to sleep in at night.
After providing the little boy and his sister with a bed, Carroll became aware of just how great the need. Since its founding, Operation Bed Spread has provided beds for more than 1,500 people, mostly local children.
It’s a staggering figure, he concedes.
“You can’t get emotionally involved with every family or you wouldn’t get anything done. But it’s hard. You see people who have nothing. A lot of times, the bed we deliver is the only furniture in the house,” Carroll says.
The beds themselves are simple — a twin size mattress, frame, and box spring — but they mean so much to the children who acquire them. Not only does it allow for a good night’s sleep, it’s often one of their few real possessions.
“It is pitiful,” Carroll says. “There are so many kids here who just don’t have beds, and they get so excited to have something.”
But to keep this critical mission going, the group has got to maintain support. The organization and its board put out the call for funds year-round, hosting two events to help fill the coffers — Back to School BEDLam in the fall and Holiday BEDlam closer to the holidays.
The latter is scheduled for 6 to 9 p.m. December 9 at Ziggy Mahoney’s in Retreat Plaza on St. Simons Island. Every cent of the funds raised from the $25 ticket price, raffle items, and other games goes back into the mission.
“We have really great raffle items, and last year we had a pool tournament, which was a lot of fun. But these pieces of it are just as important as the ticket sales for us to be able to turn a profit. But the fundraisers also cost money. Last year, our December fundraiser raised $10,000 but we had to pay $6,000. We made $4,000, which is good, but we were only able to help about 12 kids,” he says.
While the fundraisers provided a much-needed boost, the lack of consistent funding is an ongoing challenge. For the past couple of years, Carroll has had to put out a frantic call close to Christmas in order to meet the requests in time for Santa’s arrival. The community always rallies to help them meet the goal, raising tens of thousands of dollars in time for a Christmas miracle.
And for that, Carroll is exceedingly grateful. But he wishes that they wouldn’t have to face such dire straits to receive support.
“We are so grateful. We truly are but I wish folks understood that the need isn’t just at Christmas. It’s year-round. If people could commit to giving just a little bit every month, that would be huge,” he says.
For those who want to help, Carroll can assure them that it’s incredibly worth the effort. It can quite literally change the life of a local child.
And, during the holiday season, that is even more meaningful.
“What if it was your child sleeping on the floor on Christmas Eve? Put yourself in someone else’s shoes. You could help someone else get their baby off the floor so they’re not waking up there on Christmas,” he says. “There are so many of us who are blessed in this community, which is why it’s so important to help someone else.”