Students at the U.S. Naval Academy circled a Christmas tree in Bancroft Hall on Tuesday glancing at hundreds of ornaments—each one stating the name, gender, age, and suggested gifts for a local child in need.
Midshipman First Class George Bowman laughed as he plucked an ornament off the tree.
"He just likes a lot of the same things I like," Bowman said. "I used to play with Legos all the time."
Bowman said each year he takes two kids from the academy's annual giving tree, which is a collaboration between the school and the Salvation Army of Annapolis.
"I have two siblings, and I feel like one isn't enough," Bowman said. "I'm going to hook these two kids up because they remind me of myself a bit."
Each ornament contains three to four gifts requested by a needy child in the Annapolis area. The midshipmen are asked to bring the gifts unwrapped to Bancroft Hall by Dec. 9. The sixth company then loads the gifts on a truck for the Salvation Army to distribute.
"I'm forever indebted to you," Salvation Army Captain Richard New said to the midshipmen at the tree lighting ceremony on Tuesday. "Many children will be blessed because of you."
The gifts, which will fill a 35-foot truck, represent half of all the children in New's chapter of the Salvation Army will try to find presents for this holiday season.
Midshipman First Class Ricky Rodriguez organized the midshipmen's side of the event. He's worked on the event with the sixth company every year since he started school. Each year he picks out a boy and girl.
"I think it's fun to go shopping for both," Rodriguez said. "It brings back memories of my childhood."
Rodriguez will graduate this spring, and he hopes he'll be able to continue the giving tree tradition in some form during his service in the Navy.