by Moira Cullings
PRAIRIE VILLAGE — “It’s the best time of the year,” said Tammy Laudan.
Standing amid piles of red bags stuffed with Christmas gifts at St. Ann School in Prairie Village, Laudan and Linda Cosgrove couldn’t help but smile as they anticipated the children who would unwrap them on Christmas morning.
Collecting gifts for Red Bags KC has been a St. Ann tradition for the past four decades.
On Dec. 1, the school’s eighth graders carried the bags outside and loaded them onto a truck.
The next morning, they were dropped off at the Ball Conference Center in Olathe, where they were sorted and prepared for distribution.
The gifts will be given to foster children and families in need around the Kansas City metro area.
The Red Bag program, which multiple archdiocesan schools have participated in over the years, was created by the late Daniel Jacobs, a longtime parishioner at St. Ann.
Each year, organizers contact St. Ann as soon as they have their list of children and families in need. They’re given ideas for each child’s Christmas “wishes” — like games and toys — and “needs” — like coats, socks and underwear.
“They say that St. Ann’s is the largest single contributor to the program as a group,” said Cosgrove. “We always have the highest percentage of bags. It’s almost 10 percent every year.”
This year, the program is making Christmas brighter for 62 families and 1,752 children. St. Ann contributed gifts for 153 children.
Cosgrove and Laudan have been involved with the program since their daughters were in kindergarten at the school.
Although the girls are now grown, their moms continue to lead St. Ann’s efforts each year.
“We just love it,” said Cosgrove.
“Because it’s the best thing about Christmas,” said Laudan. “You can just imagine how these kids feel Christmas morning.”
“And we all have so much,” added Cosgrove. “We’re so blessed. And it’s just so beautiful to see the St. Ann’s community continue to give.”
For the past nine years, eighth graders Louisa Ismert and Chip Renz have looked forward to their school’s beloved tradition.
“All the kids from all the grades, we all get gifts and wrap them,” said Renz.
It’s an act of kindness both students appreciate.
“We are given so much,” said Ismert. “It feels good to be able to help others that are in need.”
“Because some of these kids may not get anything at all for the year,” he said, “this is big for them.
“I really hope they’re just ecstatic with everything they get.”
Kindergarten teacher Gwen Mugmon said St. Ann’s involvement in the Red Bag program is “a remarkable legacy.”
Even her young students benefit from participating in the program.
“All of the children every year are just so excited to get involved and actively participate,” she said.
This year, Mugmon’s class of 18 contributed three bags.
“I was so overjoyed with the outpouring of love from our families and communities,” she said. “Everybody wants to serve.”
Mugmon uses the experience to teach her students about the importance of helping those in need.
“Even at a young age, we’re planting the seeds of sharing God’s love, of helping others,” she said. “We’re living the commandments.”
To learn more about the Red Bag program, visit the website at: redbagskc.com.
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