CENTER TOWNSHIP (KDKA) -- Free Christmas trees were given away to 500 military families at the Community College of Beaver County campus Saturday.
"Tree For Troops" has been going on for 18 years, but this was the first time it came to western Pennsylvania.
It is just two weeks until Christmas Eve. So, you can understand why many military families with loved ones deployed right now might be distracted.
That is precisely why an event was set up at the Community College of Beaver County over the weekend. It was specifically for active duty, reservists and veterans from all branches of the service.
One unit showed up looking for 30 trees.
They had hundreds to give away.
A little boy in a family of six wanted the tallest tree he could find. They found one almost 9 feet tall. It just arrived from Nova Scotia that morning.
It is a military tree giveaway that works to make sure that servicemen and women -- active duty, reservists and veterans -- are covered at Christmas.
"I have been there," says event coordinator Beth Wiruth. "My husband was deployed several times over Christmas. Having a tree, trying to make life as normal as possible is really important. But, to have someone care enough to give me a free tree when my husband is deployed is everything."
This weekend's event helped families scratch "Getting a tree" off the holiday to-do list.
For 18 years, the Christmas Spirit Foundation has partnered with the National Christmas Tree Association. In that time, they have given away nearly a quarter of a million trees to vets and active duty troops.
"I have been blown away by Pennsylvania's support for veterans and army personnel, military personnel in general," says U.S. Army Reserve Sgt. Zachary Day. "It's a very military friendly state."
The emotional toll of deployment is hard enough -- and this event helps lessen some of the financial burden at the holidays.
For some military families like Sgt. Summer Bennett's, the event is an opportunity to show how Pennsylvanians care for its military.
"We are new and sort of out exploring. It's a good program -- Trees for Troops -- helps a lot of family members this time of year. You kind of live paycheck to paycheck and it kind of gives them an opportunity to have that Christmas," Bennett said.
If you missed this weekend's event, don't worry. Marine veteran Steve White who chaired this year's event vows they will be back with even more trees in 2019.
"Mark it down on your calendar for next year if you didn't make it this year. Next year, we will be doing the same thing," White said.
The day also featured activities inside for military families to let them know they are not forgotten during the holidays.
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