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Christmas tradition of giving grows into The Love Tree | News

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Christmas tradition of giving grows into The Love Tree

Clearwater, Florida - Making a difference has become a Christmas tradition for a Clearwater family.

Instead of buying gifts for their father, family members are told to help others and then create an ornament to symbolize the act of kindness. This idea grew into The Love Tree.

For the Henderson family, the true meaning of Christmas hangs on this tree.

"It's a reminder that one person can make a difference and together we can all make a bigger difference," says Tracy Hunter.

The Love Tree grew out of a gift Larry Henderson received in 1991 that he thought was too extravagant.

"It was given by one of my daughters, a golden toothpick with a little diamond chip in it," he recalls.

"Couldn't decide what to get him. I think of him as the man who has everything, there's nothing he really needed or wanted," says Missy Szymanski, the daughter who bought Larry the golden toothpick.

"From that point on, I disallowed my children to give me any gifts other than a Christmas tree ornament. It has to be homemade and it has to represent an act of kindness or an act of charity," says Henderson.

So for the last 20 years, that's exactly what he gets. Each daughter, grandchild and now a great grandchild helps someone less fortunate and then creates an ornament to represent the good deed.

"It's a feeling you can't describe. It's a whole lot better than getting a shirt or a tie or a pair of socks," says Henderson.

The first ornament in 1991 was made because Connie Henderson delivered a basket of food to the neighbors when their power was turned off Christmas Eve Day.

There are now well over 200. While each is special, Larry's favorite is the garland. He told his three daughters to make an ornament that represents what they did for survivors of 9-11.

"There are 60 links in the chain, some links represent a group of people so, there's hundreds of people just from that one ornament," says Henderson.

And there are thousands of others who will never know where the help came from.

"It's better to give than to get. So I love to give people stuff, but this way it's more special," says Lily Hunter, Henderson's granddaughter.

And that's a gift Larry will cherish forever.

"To me, it's a very emotional thing. It's the best thing I've ever done I think."

The family has shared this story with others and the tradition has now spread to 13 states, four countries, three continents and now to you. 


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