Jeremiah Myers, center, gets excited after unwrapping a set of Army fatigues with his family at at the Indiana Blue Star Spirit of Christmas party at the Hendricks County Fairgrounds on Saturday, December 16, 2018. Photo by Mike Fender/The American Legion

Indiana Blue Star Program to host fifth annual Spirit of Christmas

On Saturday, Dec. 15, the Indiana Blue Star Program will host its fifth annual Spirit of Christmas event for more than 55 children of 16 military and veterans’ families who are in need.

The children and their parents will receive everything on their Christmas wish list plus clothing and shoes. The gifts will be delivered to the families individually by Santa Claus, who will arrive with Mrs. Claus in a Vietnam Huey helicopter, made possible by Indiana Air Search and Rescue.

“It’s a very joyful, cheerful day,” said Indiana Blue Star Chairman and American Legion Post 145 member Ralph “Zoc” Zoccolillo. “We have been blessed that we raise enough money each year that every single family, every single child, gets everything that they wished for.”

Prior to the event, the families send in their Christmas wish list, along with their clothing and shoe size. This year’s list includes bikes, toys, televisions, bedding, pots and pans, silverware, clothing and more. Then members of the Legion Family throughout Indiana, along with volunteers, shop for the items. The wish list also includes tickets to this weekend's Colts vs. Dallas Cowboys game for a family who lost their 6-year-old son to a drowning accident this year while the father was deployed; their son was a huge fan of the Cowboys. While one mother, who has cancer, had a wish list to make memories with her children by doing different activities in downtown Indianapolis.

Every year Zoccolillo has raised more than $35,000 to deliver a special Christmas to Indiana military and veterans’ families. It’s accomplished through the generosity of Legionnaires, Legion Riders, Sons of The American Legion and Auxiliary members … “Unbelievable, all of them,” Zoc said of the Legion Family. As well as through the more than 70 sponsors and partners that support the Spirit of Christmas event.

The children and their families will enjoy face painting, a picture with Santa that they can take home in a frame, lunch provided by Epicureans Catering, and the chance to meet the Indians mascot Rowdie, Cinderella and her prince, and others.

“I love doing this. It’s just incredible,” Zoccolillo said.