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Wrapped Up in Helping
While the rest of us were braving the malls and checking off our gift lists, Renee Fitzgerald of Tempe spent the holiday season helping children with disabilities.
Fitzgerald, Arizona Wrapping for Inclusion coordinator for The Bubel/Aiken Foundation, and her group of 20 volunteers have been wrapping gifts and collecting donations. The Foundation’s mission is to provide grants and services to young people with disabilities while facilitating inclusion in the community.
“I love to support this Foundation because it is opening doors for kids with disabilities and giving them a chance to experience things that were not open to them before,” Fitzgerald, 53, said.
This is the second year Fitzgerald has organized a statewide holiday gift-wrapping effort for The Bubel/Aiken Foundation. The Foundation, based in Raleigh, N.C., was founded in 2003 by singer Clay Aiken.
Fitzgerald’s volunteers are of all ages, from teens donating community-service hours to retirees. Since mid-November, they have spent four-hour shifts in front of various storefronts, armed with plenty of holiday paper and tape. Fitzgerald travels between Phoenix and Tucson, scheduling wrapping events and organizing volunteers.
“Wrapping Christmas presents with others who support this cause is very fulfilling. Besides enjoying each others’ company, we feel like we are helping to make a difference,” Fitzgerald said.
Recently, a group of students with mental disabilities at Marcos de Niza High School in Tempe spent their lunch break wrapping their teachers’ gifts for Fitzgerald’s cause. In exchange for having their gifts wrapped and labeled, the teachers donated money to the foundation.
“It’s a neat activity. The bonus is that they’re helping others,” teacher Julie Albers said.
“Seeing kids wrapping gifts for us has been the best part,” Fitzgerald said.
With nine gift-wrapping locations statewide, wrappers have raised nearly $2,000.
“This has been a really big job but very fulfilling. I may not have all my gifts wrapped for my kids or my house clean, but I have memories that will last forever,” Fitzgerald said.
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