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Army helps Kentucky family with Christmas

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  • Army helps Kentucky family with Christmas

    By Misty Maynard - The Ledger Independent via AP
    Posted : Friday Dec 23, 2011 15:36:32 EST

    MAYSVILLE, Ky. — Santa came a little early this year for Donna Lewis and her three children, courtesy of the Army.

    Lewis’ fiancée, Staff Sgt. Kevin Henning, died in June from cancer.

    Although in college, Lewis has not worked full-time since 2007. She was borrowing money to pay bills and knew she would be limited when it came to buy Christmas presents for her children: 17-year-old Matthew Stevens, 14-year-old Tony Fite and 4-year-old Kaelynn Henning.

    Sgt. 1st Class Charles Wake is the casualty assistance officer who helped with the funeral and paperwork after Henning’s death.

    Lewis said the holidays might be a little slim this year when he asked about Christmas.

    “He said, ‘Oh no you’re not,’ ” Lewis said.

    Wake collected donations, purchased presents and delivered them to Lewis’ children in a van Wednesday. An Orangeburg Volunteer Fire Department truck escorted the van, with lights flashing.

    “Where’s the fire?” Fite asked.

    The rear van doors opened wide and revealed a pile of brightly wrapped presents, and one item without wrapping: a bicycle.

    Lewis received gift cards to buy groceries or items for herself.

    Wake said more than $1,000 was raised to help the family with its first Christmas after Kevin Henning’s death.

    Donations were solicited from more than 300 soldiers during a “battle assembly” of the 449th Engineering Company in the 478th Engineering Battalion in Fort Thomas, Wake said.

    The Thank You Foundation, which assists soldiers and their families when they experience difficulty, also contributed.

    Wake said some of his friends and neighbors also donated when they heard about Lewis’ family’s situation.

    A Christmas card presented to Lewis came from one such neighbor. The neighbor included a gift card, but did not sign a name.

    Lewis, fighting tears, expressed frustration that she could not herself give her family the Christmas she wanted to give them.

    Lewis, who is a certified nurses’ aid and recently completed her bachelor’s degree in health care administration, has some interviews lined up and soon hopes to get back on her feet. But for this Christmas, she was grateful at the generosity of the soldiers, the foundation and others.

    “I didn’t expect all this,” she said.

    Wake said his first concern upon hearing the financial difficulties the family was facing was for Kaelynn Henning who, at 4 years old, still believes in Santa Claus.

    “It makes me feel good that a little girl can still believe in Santa Claus ... at least for one more year,” he said.

    Lewis’ sons, Fite and Stevens, both expressed their appreciation as well, thanking everyone for the gifts.

    As for Kaelynn Henning, she said the presents were cute, made her feel happy.

    She said she had just one wish for everyone: “Merry Christmas.”