Boxers Spread Holiday Cheer

The holiday season may officially be over, but the spirit continues for Pacific University alumni.

Several Boxers spent the holidays spreading joy and goodwill through acts of service and kindness.

For Colin Fitzgerald ’97, holiday cheer was as simple as bringing a little light in to the darkness. Fitzgerald and his wife, Katherine, along with their two children, dazzle visitors with a holiday light display featuring more than 50,000 LED lights at their home in Hillsboro.

The home has become a spectacle to see for visitors each year, and this winter, it garnered the attention of the Hillsboro Tribune, which published a story on the “veritable Christmas town.”

The Fitzgeralds’ front yard features trees and shrubberies wrapped in lights, along with a variety of characters, including animals, snowmen and more. They even have a Star Wars-themed plywood cutout, where visitors are invited to step into the driveway for their own pictures.

It’s a lot of work, Katherine Fitzgerald told the Hillsboro Tribune, but worth the joy it brings to neighbors and visitors.

“A lot of families come out, so it’s not just us. So many people count on this for their holiday traditions,” she said. “(And) a lot of families go through hardships. To help them escape that for a few moments is the reason why we do this.”

Other alumni also were looking for ways to help others during the holiday season.

Sara (Allender) O’Donnell ‘09 announced on Facebook that she had her husband Brian would spend Christmas Day serving dinner to those in need in Portland. They helped raise money, purchase groceries and prepare food for some 150 people — half under the age of 18 — who would otherwise go hungry on the holiday.

“With so much ugliness in the world right now, wouldn’t it be nice to show people who are struggling the most that there still is love and kindness out there?” she asked her friends — who showed up to help.

One friend’s company donated socks. Another friend made goodie bags for all of the guests. And they raised enough money to donate extras to the shelter.

“Everyone at the shelter — staff and residents — were incredibly sweet and thankful and made it a pleasure to hang out with them for an afternoon,” O’Donnell said. “It just made all of us feel good knowing we left full bellies and happy hearts on Christmas Day.”

Finally, John Olivera ‘85 has turned his Salem, Ore., martial arts school into a period warming shelter for people who are homeless.

On cold nights, Olivera, who owns Steel Kickboxing, loads up his truck with food, sleeping bags and blankets, then drives around looking for people left in the cold.

He offers rides to those who need to get somewhere else, hands out supplies to those who prefer to sleep outside, and invites others to spend a warm night in his martial arts studio.

Featured on KPTV News, Olivera said he’s been doing this for the past seven years, particularly during the colder months.

“If you have an open heart — I do because my parents gave me one — and if you have a big Karate school, it’s warm,” he told the television station. “How can I leave my door closed when they’re out there being cold?”

Friday, Jan. 6, 2017