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Christmas is a special time – especially for children – but for many needy kids around the country, there’s not a lot to celebrate. Spread some holiday cheer this Christmas and make a difference in the lives of the many less fortunate by starting a Christmas tradition of giving back.

Here are 5 children’s Christmas charities to choose from to get you started.

Toys for Tots

Toys for Tots is a top-rated charity that distributes toys, books and other gifts to children in need. Founded by the U.S. Marine Corp, the program has been operating for over 70 years. During this time, Toys for Tots has distributed 548 million toys to 251 million children. That’s a lot of Christmas cheer!

Today, there are some 40,000 Marines, Veterans, Marine Corps League Members and volunteers helping each year to make sure those less fortunate children don’t go without at Christmas. You can help support Toys for Tots by making a donation, sending unwrapped toys or dropping them off at one of their of local donation spots around the country. An impressive 97% of each donation goes directly to providing gifts to children, so you know your money is doing a lot of good.

The easiest way to support Toys for Tots is to make an online donation, but if you’d prefer to purchase and donate toys to the program, you can find your local Marine Toys for Tots campaign here.

Make-A-Wish Foundation®

The Make A Wish Foundation believes a “wish experience can be a game-changer” in the lives of children facing life-threatening illnesses. What could be better at Christmas time than helping make the wish of a child with a critical illness come true?

Thanks to the tireless work of volunteers and donors across the country, a wish is granted on average every 34 minutes. And while it’s heartwarming to know that so many children are receiving these life-changing gifts, it’s also heartbreaking to realize just how many children are battling for their lives.

Angel Tree

But there are many ways you can help. The Make A Wish Foundation accepts many types of donations, provides opportunities for fundraising, accepts sponsorships, volunteers and more. Click here to learn more about all of the ways to give.

Also, if you are interested to learn about the foundation’s beginnings, you can read all about it here on the Make A Wish website. It’s an incredibly touching story that began with a U.S. Customs Agent and a Public Safety Officer determined to help a friend’s dying seven-year-old child who wanted more than anything to be a police officer.

Salvation Army

While the Salvation Army provides much-needed assistance to the needy throughout the year, it is this time of year that they do their most work. Roughly one-third of all donations are received during their annual Red Kettle Campaign, which runs from late November until Christmas Eve. That means this month is the most critical fundraising period for the Salvation Army.

It’s also a time when the charity is very active, with a range of programs to help the needy. Their Angel Tree program provides toys and clothes for one million children who would otherwise go without at Christmas, and their Grocery and Food Assistance stocks pantries and feeds those who are struggling, from seniors to the homeless. And for those struggling to pay the bills, especially as heating expenses rise at this time of year, there’s Bill-Pay Assistance. They also make hospital and nursing home visits, conduct gifting programs, toy and clothing drives, and so much more.

This is all in addition to their regular good works, which include disaster relief, overcoming hunger and poverty, providing shelter, supporting the LGBTQ community, and fighting human trafficking and domestic abuse.

So the next time you see a bell ringer standing outside your favorite store or when you’re out grocery shopping, give what you can. There are also many other ways you can help, from making online donations, donating items to volunteering. Visit the website to learn more about how the Salvation Army is helping to “Brighten the Holidays” and how you can help.

Operation Christmas Child

This is a really fun way for you and your family to give back at Christmas. Operation Christmas Child is a program that distributes shoe boxes filled with gifts to children around the world at Christmas time.

The concept is really simple: grab an average-sized shoe box, pick the child’s age group, fill it with gifts – and if you like – include a personal note or letter. Donators are also encouraged to pray for the child that will receive the box. Then simply jump online and make a $9 donation to cover shipping costs, apply the tracking label, and drop if off at your local drop off center during collection week.

If this is your first time hearing about Operation Christmas Child, you will have to wait until next year though, as collection week was November 12 – 19 for the 2018 program. But next year, you can have the joy of following your box via the tracking label to its final destination in time for Christmas.

Operation Christmas Child is one of many programs run by the Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian charity dedicated to helping in crisis areas around the world. Click here to learn more about their good work and other ways you can help.

Founded by an ex-prisoner who saw firsthand how incarceration of a parent affects children, the Angel Tree is now the largest outreach for the children of prisoners in the country. According to the Angel Tree website, there are 2.7 million children in the United States with a parent in prison. This program aims to reach out to these kids to assist with not only their physical needs, but emotional and spiritual needs too.

The Angel Tree program provides gifts to children that are purchased, wrapped and delivered on behalf of the child’s incarcerated parent. There are two ways people can contribute: 1) by making an online donation and 2) registering your faith-based group or church to volunteer with the annual program, which involves purchasing and delivering gifts for the children allocated to you.

The Angel Tree also operates other programs for kids with a parent in prison, including camping trips, sports clinics and mentoring.

To make an online donation, click here. If you’d like to learn more about the registration process, you can do that here.

Whether you choose one of these charities for children, or one of the many other non-profits doing great work for children and people of all ages in need, make this Christmas the first of many that includes giving back to others.