Kentucky Man Raises Thousands To Buy Christmas Presents for Tornado Victims

by Jennifer Shea
Scott Olson/Getty Images

Here’s a feel-good holiday story for you. A retired Marine is on a mission to restore Christmas for the children in his Kentucky town, which was devastated by recent tornadoes.

Shawn Triplett, who volunteers at a local elementary school in his retirement, has raised tens of thousands of dollars through his GoFundMe page and now hopes to reach hundreds of kids in time for Christmas. He’s even partnered with a Kentucky WalMart that’s providing a 25 percent discount on all purchases for his project.

Triplett tells People that in the wake of the tornadoes, he went to help out at a local church shelter that was housing people displaced by the storms. It was there that he reportedly saw a young boy crying in his mother’s arms.

“The boy told his mom, ‘I’ve lost my Christmas,’” Triplett recounted. “It was at that moment that I broke down and had to walk outside.”

Kentucky Man Aims to Restore Christmas for Local Kids

Triplett began by asking family and friends for donations. He said he knew that this year especially, most of these kids’ families were already scraping by on budgets stretched thin. Now the tornadoes have wiped out what little Christmas they were going to have.

“There was so much support in the community for water, generators and food, but nobody was thinking about the kids,” Triplett continued. “At least, not in the way it should be, so close to Christmas.”

But word soon got out, and before long Triplett was fielding thousands of dollars in donations. He says the support has been “unreal” and has included donations “from all over the globe.”

So now Triplett has expanded from his original goal of buying presents for 30 kids to providing gifts for hundreds of Kentucky children. He is paying for wrapping paper out of his own pocket, and plans to deliver them himself in costume as Santa as Christmas approaches.

“That’s my biggest joy, being able to give these kids so much,” he said. “The support has been humbling and overwhelmingly incredible.”

Triplett Plans to Send Receipts and Photos to Donors

Triplett said he’s so touched by the outpouring of support that he’s planning to send receipts and photos to donors so they can see how their donations helped. He also wants to thank each donor himself.

The retired Marine is pouring a lot of energy and attention to detail into this project. He said he wanted to wrap the presents on his own dime so the kids get the full Christmas experience. And that’s not all.

“[The gifts are] all labeled per gender and age range,” he explained. “We also took skin tone into consideration with dolls and have both unisex toys as well as family presents.”

“We’re hoping to expand and have some items for older kids as well,” he added. “We’re doing everything we can to normalize a traumatic experience for them, even if just for a few hours.”