Working in the 'Toy Factory'

The Angel Tree program is one of The Salvation Army's highest-profile Christmas efforts, and is renowned for bringing happiness and smiles to hundreds of children during a very special time of year. I was beyond excited for the opportunity to go behind the scenes and join volunteers for what was definitely one of the most inspiring days of the year.

I first became aware of the Angel Tree program four years ago when I moved to Dallas from Melbourne, Australia, to audition for the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. I was drawn to this team for many reasons, but one that continues to exceed expectations is the unique combination of opportunities we have throughout the year to "do the most good." Working with children, seniors, military men and women, along with visiting local hospitals annually, are just some of the diverse engagements with which we have the honor of participating.

There are several events throughout the year that involve us with The Salvation Army. Every encounter is always unique, moving and organized in the most detailed manner. To say I was impressed with the management and execution of the Angel Tree program is an understatement. It was a highlight experience, and I was truly blown away!

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Upon arrival, my teammate Erica and I were greeted by a group of the most bubbly and cheerful volunteers who showed us to the orientation. We were all given a breakdown of tasks and rules, including important protocols to follow in the warehouse, also known as The Salvation Army's "Toy Factory." Energy filled the air and excitement radiated from every person.

[embeddedad0]With so many moving parts, there was no room for error, so Erica and I began by joining forces with two veteran volunteers who showed us the ropes and shared valuable tips. Then we set off on our own, scurrying down the aisles like excited kids in a candy store.

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The Toy Factory was meticulously arranged and labeled, and each volunteer played a specific role, which ensured everything ran smoothly. The passion, teamwork, decorations and Christmas spirit, combined with the presence of such organized chaos, made us feel like we were elves in a real life Santa's workshop.

Cowboys mascot Rowdy and Ring of Honor member Darren Woodson joined us along the way, who I must admit were particularly handy to have around at the "oversized item" collection point. More often that not, wishes involved a heavy/oversized item, so the boys quickly became valuable assets.

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At the end of it all, the best part was taking our carts full of gifts out to the collection point, where we actually got to meet the parents. It was one heartwarming experience after the next, and there was no greater feeling than watching their faces light up with such gratitude and happiness.

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It's not often that you get to experience both the front of house aspect, delivering gifts, as well as go behind the scenes alongside some of the most uplifting volunteers. I'm grateful for the unique perspective I gained as well as an even deeper appreciation for The Salvation Army and all who were involved.

I have an incredible amount of respect and continue to be inspired by the Cowboys organization for setting standards that encourage us all to become better members of society, embodying the fundamental values of Dedication, Character and Community.

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