December. The season of gifts. Big gifts, little gifts, e-gifts, gift cards, stocking stuffers, family gifts, individual gifts, and gifts for charities – cash, checks, and various items. The items are sometimes individual such as dropping off toys for pediatric cancer patients served by From Maddi’s Closet; adopt-a-family at church; new socks, underwear, and jeans for the orphanage in Tijuana; or, for this story, being a Christmas Elf for a child with cancer in Oklahoma City through my activities with Ally’s House.
Ally’s House has a program where a child with cancer turns in a list of items he or she wants and volunteers known as Christmas Elfs shop for that child. There is a theoretical cost limit, but no one I know paid any attention to that limit. We were having too much fun shopping. I connected with this group via The Toby Keith Fan Club, and while Ally’s House was getting well established the Fan Club members around the country filled much of the Christmas Elf need.
By 2012 I’d been a Christmas Elf and a Back-To-School Elf for Ally’s House for a number of years. In fact, the ONLY time I EVER got up to be at a store at 4:30 a.m. on the day after Thanksgiving was to be able to get a fantastic price on a portable DVD player for a child with cancer who also had Attention Deficit Disorder, and his Mom had asked for the DVD player to keep him calm and occupied on the trips from their home to the hospital for treatment.
OK, with that background, here is the actual story. December 2012. I’d received my list, shopped, found exactly what the child wanted, got a very sturdy box from the garage, packed everything carefully with a lot of cushioning and bubble wrap, and dropped the box off on a Friday afternoon at Office Depot for UPS pickup. Super. Completed that task. Knew the box would arrive in plenty of time. Monday I flew to Las Vegas for 5 days of Cowboy Christmas with my friend Kate. Tickets to American Country Awards. Tickets to Shania Twain. Trade shows at Mandalay Bay and the Convention Center. Must see the Solarium at Bellagio decorated for Christmas. Late nights at “I Love This Bar and Grill” (another Toby Keith connection). And cowboys everywhere! All was well. Or so I thought.
Hotel room late Monday afternoon. We are getting ready to go out. Hubby calls. UPS is holding the Ally’s House package at a secure location because it contains hazardous material that was not declared. WHAT???? No way. I’m racking my brain trying to figure out what was in the items in the box that could possibly be hazardous. I call the UPS number I’m given and we play phone tag for an hour. Finally we connect. Short story – I’d used a box left over from when I helped with a fireworks stand in July. The boxes were good and solid so I’d brought a few home and used one for the Christmas Elf items without realizing it. If I’d gone to U.S. Post Office or a full UPS store they probably would have seen the markings and we would have taken care of it right then. But I didn’t and they didn’t and so someone at UPS did and sent the box to a special holding location. OK. I’m told that there is a process for this. I am to fax them a letter explaining what is in the box and how I got the box and sign it. Simple enough, except it wasn’t.
Remember, I’m at a hotel. It took me 2 full days and 5 different times of renting computer time in the business offices at both the MGM where I was staying, and Mandalay Bay where the Award show and Trade Show were being held, and paying to send each page of the fax. I got the fax number wrong. I’d left something out of the letter – not once but twice. I’d done something else wrong. The person handling the case wasn’t in to get the fax. I call Ally’s House and explain what is happening. They remain calm, trying not to laugh, and tell me that if my items don’t arrive in time they will give the child something and work with his parents to get the Elf items to him. On the outside I’m calm and walking around Vegas with Kate having the time of my life. Inside I’m concerned that the items won’t arrive and a little upset with myself that I didn’t check the box for writing on the outside. I know better!
Well, eventually the letter was written correctly, signed correctly (it had to match what was on the return address), and addressed correctly to the correct person at UPS who finally got it into her hands and authorized allowing the box to continue on its journey. WHEW! What an adventure. The minute it arrived at Ally’s House they gave me a call.
In 2013 I was a very careful Christmas Elf. This year Ally’s House has grown enough that they have sufficient local supporters in Oklahoma City for Christmas Elfs and instead the Toby Keith Fans were asked to send iTunes gift cards for the teens with cancer – TUNES FOR TEENS – to use to buy music, books, and apps for their computers. Trust me. I loved being a Christmas Elf, but going on-line and ordering a package of iTunes gift cards to be sent directly to Ally’s House sure takes off the pressure and, I DON’T HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT USING THE WRONG BOX.
Have you ever had a similar adventure?
Every Day Is A Good Day. VJ