Gary Nenninger, center, president of the Army Aviation Association of America, presents a $1,000 check to Madison Cheer Brigade members John Perry and Laura Ayers.

REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- Looking for a way to spread some holiday cheer to our Soldiers in need' Look no further than the Madison Cheer Brigade.

The Cheer Brigade, in conjunction with the City of Madison and local National Guard and Army Reserve units, is asking for your support to make this holiday season a happy one for deserving Soldiers and their families. They are accepting financial contributions and non-monetary gifts to be distributed to local military families in need this Christmas. Donations will be accepted now through today.

The Cheer Brigade consists of Redstone employee Laura Ayers, North Alabama Veterans and Fraternal Organizations Coalition president John Perry, and local veterans advocate David Carney. As early as October of each year, they contact local National Guard and Reserve units and ask for names of families who need assistance for the holidays. Then they begin the rewarding task of playing Santa to these families, by collecting money and gifts from area merchants, organizations and individuals in the community who want to help.

More than 50 families received help from the Cheer Brigade last year. They have 20 families on the list for this year, but they expect more in the coming weeks, as units return home from deployment.

"We do not turn any family away," Ayers said, "even if it's the day before Christmas when we find out about them. They will have a Christmas."

Madison Mayor Paul Finley's office is a major contributor to the Cheer Brigade's cause. Last year alone, they collected more than $12,000 in money and gifts for 12 military families in the Tennessee Valley. As they did last year, city workers and other volunteers will wrap the gifts on a specially designated "Wrapping Day" at the Madison Recreation Center before sending them to the Reserve Center on Patton Road, where they will be distributed by none other than Santa himself.

"It's a big deal to us," Kym Lindsey, secretary to the mayor, said. "We have a room full of volunteers just to help wrap. It is such a heartwarming experience to help these families. It will bring tears to your eyes."

Said Finley, "Madison is committed to making a positive difference in these families' lives. They have sacrificed for us; we want to help them in whatever way we can."

Non-monetary gifts can be taken to Dublin Park Recreation Center, 8324 Old Madison Pike in Madison. Financial contributions and other monetary gifts will be collected at Madison City Hall, 100 Hughes Road. Contributions can be made to a particular family or families, or can be undesignated. Any check donations should be made payable to the City of Madison. The city aggregates the money for each family and issues a city check to them.

"Ultimately, it's the community meeting the needs of local Soldiers," Ayers said. "Sometimes we wonder how are we going to do it, but the community always comes through."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16