By Christine McIlhenny

For a day or two in November, Cumberland Gymnastics in Carlisle, Pa., becomes a bit like Santa’s workshop! Head Coach Melanie Heckert, and her team of approximately 50 girls and parents, wrap and stuff shoeboxes for young boys and girls in need. The boxes are shipped off to North Carolina to the staff of Samaritan’s Purse, who then ships the boxes overseas to various countries where children in need will receive them as Christmas gifts for Operation Christmas Child.

Last year was the first year the Cumberland Gymnasts took on the task with a goal to fill 100 shoeboxes and they ended up filling 200. This year the goal was to double that number and, by the end, 420 boxes were filled with towels, soap, toothbrushes and paste, school supplies, socks, candy, play doh, and toys!

Coach Heckert plans to continue the program as families have generously contributed bulk items as well as time to this fun and rewarding project. To learn more about the project go to


Thank you to Christine McIlhenny for the photos