Soldier, mother work together as Santa's helpers
U.S. Army Spc. Blake Woodhouse, an infantryman with 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 3-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 7th Infantry Division, stands with his mother, Tami Michaels. Woodhouse and Michaels worked together to raise money and toys for two military families during Christmas. (Courtesy Photo)

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - A few years ago, Spc. Blake Woodhouse learned that his cousin and best friend Kevin had passed away. Kevin, who was injured by a roadside bomb in Iraq and who had only recently left a recovery program, had always been an example to Woodhouse and had shown him what the human spirit is capable of. While in Iraq, Kevin's family asked what he wanted for Christmas. His response was that he wanted his church to make stockings for all the children at an Iraqi school. It is deeds like this, which are referred to as "Kevin acts of kindness" that Woodhouse and his mother, Tami Michaels, are determined to carry on.

In this spirit, Woodhouse and Michaels acted as Santa's helpers over the holidays, raising money and collecting toys for two military families.

"At one point in time, I was a single mom and had little or no money and Blake remembers what those Christmases, those holidays, were like, they were tough," Michaels said. "Blake took it upon himself to organize for these two families. Blake was really kind of an elf."

Woodhouse, a Seattle native and infantryman with 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 3-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 7th Infantry Division, collected toys and donations from local businesses and worked with his brother-in-law, who owns a bar in Capitol Hill, Wash., to start a fundraiser for the families.

"He drove all over town picking things up," Michaels said. "He was literally Santa's sleigh."

When Woodhouse found out that one of the families had a 14-year-old, he knew that he already had the perfect gift for him, a Playstation 4, which he had originally purchased for himself but had never opened.

"I'm a huge gamer," Woodhouse said, describing himself as a big kid who can relate to a 14-year-old.

Another family that Woodhouse and Michaels helped was located in Yakima. When they learned that the family's father had been killed in combat, they knew that they needed to do something for them.

"He never even met his own daughter, never knew if it was a boy or girl at the time he died," said Woodhouse. "It breaks your heart."

He used the money from his fundraiser to send the mother a gift card and sent toys for all the children.

For Woodhouse, helping others is a way to give back.

"I know what it's like to have a crummy Christmas," Woodhouse said. "Anything that you can do to make someone's life a little better, it's just the right thing to do, you know?"

Giving gifts also helps Woodhouse connect with the Kevin's memory.

"If you ask him, the thing that he probably won't tell you is that I said to him on Christmas Eve, I said, 'Kevin would be really proud of you,' and he said, 'that's all I actually wanted,'" Michaels said. "I think all he wanted to hear is 'Kevin would be proud of you.'"

Page last updated Fri January 24th, 2014 at 12:27