Give a shoebox, make a child`s Christmas By Olivia Wilkes The


Give a shoebox, make a child`s Christmas By Olivia Wilkes The
The Excalibur Times
The Excalibur Times
Volume 1, Issue 2
December 2011
Give a shoebox, make a child’s Christmas
By Olivia Wilkes
No matter what size shoe they wear, Excalibur students are taking steps to
help needy children in other countries.
Every year, close to
Christmas, Excalibur
families lend a helping
hand to needy children
around the world by
filling a shoebox with
items for kids.
Operation Christmas
Child (OCC) is a project started by a Christian organization called
Samaritan’s Purse.
OCC’s mission is to
share God’s love with
needy children around
the world. They do this
by asking people everywhere to fill a shoebox with candy, toys,
and other items and
then take it to one of
their Drop-Off locations. The shoeboxes
are then collected, inspected, and shipped to
needy kids around the
9th grader Caitlyn
Williams is one of the
Excalibur students
helping OCC. She and
her Mom work together, and she became involved two years ago
when her church made
an announcement about
the project. “… I love
Christmas shopping
and it is also so much
fun to give gifts!” she
says, when asked why
she chose to help OCC.
Another Excalibur
student, 4th grader
Caleb Knapp, says he
has helped Operation
Christmas Child ever
since he can remember. “My family has
always participated in
it,” he says. “I like to
make the kids in other
countries feel good.”
Since its founding in
1993, OCC has placed
shoeboxes into the
hands of more than 85
million children in
more than 130 countries. People from the
United States, Canada,
Australia, and Europe
have packed shoeboxes
for OCC.
OCC’s National
Collection Week,
which is when they collect most of their shoeboxes, is November 1421 for this year. Last
year, more than 8 million boxes were collected from 13 countries. This year OCC is
hoping to get 8.5 million, including 5.8 million from the United
States. Excalibur senior Katherine Calvert is
one of many helping
OCC to reach this goal.
“Our family packed
two shoeboxes, one girl
and one boy, this year,”
Calvert says. She says
they have been doing
this for at least twelve
years and she has gotten letters from two
kids who received her
shoeboxes. “It was a
really special thank you
note,” she said.
Whenever appropriate, a copy of “The
Greatest Gift of All” is
packed in with each
shoebox. In the language of the child who
will receive it, this
booklet explains the
story of Christ and salvation and gives children an opportunity to
learn about the Gospel.
“What a wonderful gift
to give them!” Calvert
On their website,
Samaritan’s Purse says
that the best thing you
Inside this issue:
Angel Tree
New Year’s Resolutions 3
Special Olympics
Christmas events
Online shopping
Student Musician
Student driving
Story Continues on
page 10
Page 2
The Excalibur Times
Angel Tree history has Alabama
By Sydney Rhyne
Perhaps you know about Angel Tree, an organization committed to reaching out to children of incarcerated parents
with gifts and Gods love. But do you know that the program was started by a woman who was once on the FBI’s
Most Wanted list?
Mary Kay Beard was a safecracker and a bank robber who quickly collected 11 federal indictments and 35 charges
against herself, and a 180-year sentence in prison was set on her. But her almost two centuries long sentence turned
into a six-year one—and during that time she asked God to change her hardened heart.
During the Christmases she spent at the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women in Alabama, she would observe the local
church groups that came and brought toothpaste and soap for the inmates. Mary watched as the prisoners wrapped up
the small gifts and gave them to their children when they came for their Christmas visit.
Most children wouldn’t think much of these small and seemingly menial gifts, but for the prisoner’s children it didn’t matter what they got, because it was from their mothers.
After being paroled, Mary Kay accepted Prison Fellowship’s challenge to become their first Alabama State Director
in 1982. At one of the speaking engagements, she had a conversation with an ex-prisoners daughter. “What about the
kids?” the young woman asked. “ They are the real victims.” That’s when Mary Kay got the idea to start Angel Tree.
Mary Kay called the caretakers of the children whose parents were incarcerated and asked what they wanted for
Christmas. Then, she wrote each child’s name and the “gift wishes” on an angel ornament. After that, Mary and a
group of volunteers went to a mall on the day after Thanksgiving.
They greeted shoppers at the top of an escalator and were shocked at the amount of feedback and took all the Angels off the Angel tree. So, Mary Kay visited more prisons, called more caretakers, and put many more angels on the
That year 556 children received gifts. The next year Angel Tree branched out to 12 states and became a church-based
program. The effects of the gift-giving spread even farther, however.
“In January, all of my Bible study groups in the prisons doubled or tripled. The newcomers were the parents of the
children who had received gifts.” Mary Kay says.
Now, Angel Tree is spread all over the world, with 90 other countries besides the United States participating in the
hope-giving program. Angel Tree now works year-round instead of just on Christmas. Parents who are in prison receive a paper angel if they want to sign their kids up for gifts, and they hand write the name of their child on the angel. The Angels are placed on Christmas trees all around the country, and people take the angels to buy gifts for the
child they have agreed to sponsor.
Volume 1, Issue 2
Page 3
New Year’s resolution or
By Wesley Scott
Many a time on the turn
of a new year, people
have made “resolutions”
to improve themselves
for during the next 365
days. But are those yearly goals always kept?
100 people who participate in making
Whether it’s losing
weight, kicking an old
habit, spending more
time with loved-ones, or
just enjoying more of
what life has to offer;
the accomplishment of
these yearly commitments may not be as
easy as it seems.
According to the website,
“I don’t think much
about this kind of
thing”, said Jonathan
Lindstrom, a student at
An Excalibur teacher,
Mrs. Jolene Perez commented that she typically doesn’t do these resolutions. She also mentioned that if she were to
make New Year’s resolutions, it would be
more towards improving
her character and being
more Christ-like.
According to, and 52 out of
resolutions are confident
that they will be successful. But only a margin of 12 actually
achieve their set goals.
What New Year’s
Resolutions should Christians make?
statistics show that 40 –
45 percent of adults
make resolutions each
year. Only 46 percent of
those actually keep up
with their goals after 6
Resolve to do God’s will in 2012 and keep God’s perspective.
The reason that so many
people fail to
1. Pray for wisdom for any resolutions God wants you to
accomplish their
2. Pray for wisdom on how to fulfill those God given
“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God,
who gives generously to all with-out finding fault, and it
will be given to you.” James 1:5
Prayer is the best way to shape a resolution.
resolutions, is that they
find other important
3.Rely on God’s strength, not your own.
things to do, and are less
4. Have an accountability partner to help you be encourable to concentrate on
aged and motivated.
that one thing that
they’ve set out to do. A
few however, are devoted to making that dream
come true, so that they
“Commit your way to the Lord; trust in
may live better lives.
him, and he will act. He will bring forth
your righteousness as the light, and your
jus-tice as the noon-day.” Psalm 37:5-6
Page 4
The Excalibur Times
Special Olympians brave in their
by Cailean Williams
Schools from across North Alabama joined together at Milton Frank Stadium for the 2011 Special
Olympics on October 25th.
Hundreds of family members and volunteers
flocked to the stadium, eager to show their support
for children affected by Down’s syndrome and similar disorders.
“I hope anyone who helps sees that those with
disabilities are special in God's eyes. We should view
them as the Lord views them. There are no mistakes,” said Mrs. Gena Spearing, the coordinator for
the Excalibur volunteers.
“They may be different, but they’re not dumb.
They’re intelligent human beings, like you and me,”
said Excalibur sophomore Mitch Evars.
Evars’ competitor, DeWayne Moore, went on to
win gold medals in both the 50-meter dash and the
soft-ball throw.
“He showed me that kids like that are humans, not
aliens, not animals,” Evars commented. “It’s a great
blessing…very gratifying.”
The volunteers are not the only ones reaping
blessings. Jason Dohrman is resident of Ardmore,
Alabama and a Special Olympics competitor.
“He can’t compete with typically functioning children, but the Special Olympics makes him feel like
he can compete and win in sports. It means a lot to
him,” says his sister Anna Dohrman.
Dohrman won third in the standing long jump and
fourth in the 100-meter dash.
“He has a hard driven determination that always
inspires him to try his hardest and do his best.”
Many will agree with her that these children are
resolute and strong.
“If they want something, they’ll push till they get
it,” said Evars
“I have this fear of them, not because of how they
look or any-thing like that. It’s that they’re so bold!”
Special Olympics competitor Jason Dohrman
said Alice Radcliffe, another Excalibur sophomore.
Such determination is reflected in the motto of the
Special Olympics: “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let
me be brave in the attempt.”
MATTHEW 25:40:
The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did
for one of the least of the-se brothers and sisters of
mine, you did for me.”
Volume 1, Issue 2
Page 5
The gift of family
By April Madden
The gift of Christmas traditions and
events that comes all
wrapped up in fun is
just around the corner.
This year’s top 5
Christmas events in
Huntsville are:
1.The Huntsville
Botanical Garden’s
Galaxy of Lights;
2. Burritt on the
Mountain’s Deck the
Halls Christmas
3. The Huntsville Symphony Orchestra;
4. The Huntsville
Madison County Public
Library’s Christmas
tree lighting;
5. The Constitution
Village’s Santa’s
Katherine Calvert, a
student who is a senior
at Excalibur Christian
School, shares some of
her family traditions:
“Every year, Trent,
Ben, and I love to help
our dad decorate the
outside of our house
with lights, and set up
our Christmas train in
the sunroom,”
Katherine said.
Katherine enjoys
attending the annual
Excalibur ice skating
party every year and
“volunteering at
‘Operation Christmas
Bear’, a special event
for military families.”
Another student, who is
a junior at Excalibur
Christian School, Hannah LaGrave, celebrates her family traditions with:
“Every Christmas Eve, we kids,
(Hannah, Sam, Daniel,
and Sarah LaGrave) get
to open presents from
each other. Then, in the
morning, we get to
open our stockings.
Afterwards, we
have to eat breakfast,
which is always cinnamon rolls, and then we
get to open the rest of
the gifts! But we have a
special way of doing iteach person opens one
gift at a time, rotating
through the family until
all the gifts
are opened. That night
after dinner, we kids
have a Christmas service we do, complete
with a sermon! We've
done that since I was
11,” Hannah said.
Family traditions
come in all packages,
from visiting family in
another state to Christmas caroling in your
community or even attending the Nutcracker
at the Von Braun Center. Enjoy time with your
family this Christmas!
Galaxy Photos by Photo Editor April Madden
Page 6
The Excalibur Times
Online Shopping, time saver or money waster?
By Erin Dunbar
Top Internet Shopping sites:
1. eBay
3. Walmart
4. Best Buy
5. Target
7. New Egg
8. Ikea
9. Macy’s
Shopping has been transformed by the internet.
Making a purchase is now just as easy as clicking a few buttons on your computer and even your phone.
You can stay in the comfort of your home to do al-most anything. This convenience is hard to beat. Online
has made purchasing tickets, clothing, books and more, much easier.
There are many ad-vantages to shopping online. You can shop whenever you want, 24/7 and in your
home. There’s wide variety and comparison shop-ping is much simpler. No people to tolerate and privacy is
also a bonus.
For those with children, you won’t have to drag them around. With the holidays ar-riving, stores will be
hectic and traffic will be a beast. The internet is a quick way to avoid them.
“Online shopping is easier than having to go to a store, and I can wear jammies,” said Shay Abigail Huter.
Online shopping has numerous advantages, the disadvantages al-most overshadow them. The items you
see are limited to one page, the webpage could take a long time.
Sites malfunction more than a store clos-es. Billing errors are also common occur-rences. Online shopping lacks the personal touch of trying things on and seeing them up-close before you pur-chase. Another
draw-back is the price of shipping and handling.
Everything has its pros and cons, just find the shopping method that works for you. Be-tween gas prices
and shipping and handling, the amount you spend can be identical. Online shopping and regular stores are
here to stay.
“I’ve shopped online countless times, I haven’t had many problems. I do enjoy shopping in regular stores
better,” said Excalibur student Emi-y Lindstrom.
Volume 1, Issue 2
Page 7
Music to the Judges’ Ears
By April Madden
An Excalibur
Christian freshman
won the second division in the Alabama
Music Teachers Association November 5,
Helena Bandy
has played the violin
for 10 years and has
been performing with
the Huntsville Youth
Orchestra for 7 years.
Helena competed with
Concerto No. 4 By:
Mozart for the AMTA.
Ms. Bandy’s
advice to other students
who compete with instruments:
“Well it's good
just to keep going if
you mess up, and to
just smile and not make
any grimaces. And say
thank you to the judges
of course” said Helena.
Helena will be performing with the
Huntsville Symphony
Orchestra in January
Photo courtesy Huntsville Times Photographer Eric Schultz
Page 8
Student drivers going the extra mile to get
their driver’s license
By Hannah Sweeney
Driving is a privilege all teens look for-ward to
enjoying, but statistics show motor vehicle crashes
are the leading cause of death among 15- to 20-yearolds and 16-year-olds have higher crash rates than
drivers of any other age, so good driving practice can
make a difference.
Getting that driving practice done means finding a
time that works for you and your parent, when you
both can go out and practice driving. Bring your permit with you at all times because you never know
when your mom or dad might hand you the car keys.
“I wanted to start practicing right away but I
couldn’t because I would forget to bring my permit.
Oooops!” Nicole O’Donnell said, a student driver at
Cal-vary Assembly of God.
Another tip is don‘t expect to be out on the highway on the first day! Backing in and out of the driveway and driving around the neighborhood are a good
start. Keep expanding your driving
practice, like using turn signals, lane changes, stop
signs, and turns.
A couple good habits to start off with when you
get in the car are closing and locking the doors, adjusting the driver's seat for your personal settings,
fastening your seatbelt, and adjusting side and rear
view mirrors.
After several les-sons of driving locally and practicing safe driver habits, it is time to go out onto a
busy road. Stay calm! Re-mind your mom or dad to
stay calm as well. Focus on what you are doing. Once
you’ve practiced driving with traffic for a while, it’s
time to go out on the highway.
“When everything's coming your way, you're in
the wrong lane," Kathleen Alexander, a student driver
at Steps of Faith dance studio said.
While behind the wheel practice is important,
knowledge about driving rules are important too.
When driving down the road, look at the road signs,
and test yourself to see
if you know what they mean. These will be important
for you to know when you take your test.
Even if you learn how to drive and get your license in
warmer months, be sure to get back in the car with your
parent when wet leaves, snow, and ice are on the
ground. Also make certain that you know how a radio,
cell phone, or other passengers can distract you, and
how to drive around pedestrians, bicyclists, or lost puppies.
“There are two types of pedestrians, the quick and
the dead,” David Kenney, student driver hoping to get
his license this week said.
Once you are certain that you understand all
the rules of the road, you are ready to take your test. Remember, driving is a privilege and not a right. Good
driving habits are formed early on, but so are bad habits.
“If you start out a good driver, you will finish a good
driver,” Excalibur student driver Sarah Sweeney said.
The Excalibur Times
Page 9
Internet safety key for parents
By Emily Lindstrom
The social media website Facebook continues to
grow in popularity and use ,and while many parents think Facebook is not a good thing and are
concerned about security, teenagers are very happy
Many parents think Facebook is a huge waste of
time for their teenagers, and a dis-traction from
Page 8
According to the Family Online Safety Institute
33% of all 9-16 year old internet users are on Facebook. The institute also says that 31% of children
can access the internet in their bedroom by cell
“It’s good that you can talk to your friends
when you don't live close to them, it’s bad because
people can post bad videos or pics and text something in-appropriate,” Toby Lindstrom said.
The negative side of Facebook according to
Jonathan Lindstrom is stalking.
“Facebook has brought a new definition to
stalking. Long ago life was hard and it was much
more difficult to stalk people to know where they
lived or how to get their email address,” Jonathan
Lindstrom said.
The Family Online Safety Institute says parents
are concerned about security and safety, and the
Institute has tips for parents and students available
at their web-site:
The top tip for students using Facebook is:
“Before you post anything online, ask your-self
whether you would share the information at an allschool assembly. Once you post some-thing online,
it is there for everyone to see, ” according to The
Family Online Safety.
Focus on the Family wants to help families with
internet security has resources available at their
Focus on the Family provides a “top 10 guidelines”, social net-working working checklist, internet safety contract and other resources are available,
along with videos, articles, and products for sale
such as Bsecure, an online filtering protection
The Excalibur Times
Editor: Erin Dunbar
Copy Editor: Hannah Sweeney
Feature Editor:
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over
their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of
the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to
them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all
the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is
the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped
in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly
host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:8-14
Cailean Williams
Photo Editor: April Madden
Arts and Entertainment:
Sydney Rhyne
Science and Technology Editor:
Wesley Scott
Senior Features Editor:
Merry Christmas!
Emily Lindstrom
Faith and Values Editor: Olivia
Operation Christmas Child continued from Page 1
Continued from page 1
can do for Operation
Christmas Child is to
pray for them. Williams said that she
thinks the best way to
get involved in OCC
would be to, “Ask their
Pastor or someone in
their church who
knows about it, and
then get it started in
their church if it is not
already started.”
If you’d like to pack
a shoebox, put items
such as candy, hygiene
items, and school supplies in it. “We actually begin looking for
shoebox items each
December and purchase things all through
the year,” Calvert said.
“Anytime we see a
good item on sale, we
purchase it.”
Although National
Collection Week is November 14-21, you can
send your shoebox to
OCC’s headquarters
any time of the year.
You can also volunteer
at OCC year-round,
during National Collection Week, or at a Processing Center.
To volunteer, find
the Drop-Off location
nearest you, or learn
more about Operation
Christmas Child, go to

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