BLOOMFIELD, Neb. — Like most parents, Brooke Sazama of Bloomfield, Nebraska, wants her girls to be kind.
That's why the weekly chore list for Dalee, 6, and Marrich, 4, includes tasks like "helping someone without being asked," and why the family will make the occasional trip with cookies to the local nursing home.
"It goes to show that if you try to teach a kid something, they're going to learn it," Sazama said.
This Christmas, both children decided to use their allowance money to help others even though they had been saving for six months to buy a trampoline for their own enjoyment.
Dalee sent her money to Heifer International — a charity organization working to end hunger and poverty around the world by providing livestock and training to struggling communities — and Marrich used her money to buy toys for children in an orphanage in South Korea.
"Last year I was disappointed with the commercialism of Christmas," Sazama said. "I told myself if they couldn't tell me what Christmas was about this year, no presents."
So, for 6 to 8 months prior to the holiday, Sazama tried to instill in Dalee and Marrich that it's not all about getting, it's about giving.
The lesson took.
Both girls said they felt happy to see the difference they made.
Dalee decided to donate to Heifer International because it's an organization supported by the United Methodist Church — which her family attends in Bloomfield.
Dalee especially wanted to see her money go toward buying chickens for communities in need. Marrich also had a specific idea for the toys she wanted to donate to the orphanage.
"She got pillows for people to cuddle with," Sazama said. "That's what she said, ‘They could cuddle at night with them because their mommy doesn't tuck them in.’ "
She also got ponies, Barbies, animals and a doctor set, among other toys.
The orphanage in South Korea was chosen because that's where Dalee and Marrich's aunt, Wendi Sazama Ward, is stationed as a judge advocate general for the U.S. Air Force.
"It was a nice thing for them to do with their aunt because they don't get to see her very often," Sazama said. "We only get to see her when she can come back."
Wendi watched a few of the children at the orphanage open their presents once they arrived in early January.
"This one little girl, probably a year younger than Marrich, Wendi said she was just so thankful," Sazama said. "So it was worth it."
Dalee and Marrich are now pen pals with two children from the South Korean orphanage.
Understandably, Sazama and her sister are bursting with pride for Dalee and Marrich, as are many other community members in Bloomfield.
"A lot of people came up to the girls and told them that they were proud of them, and I had a lot of people offer to buy them a trampoline, like a lot of people," Sazama said. "We got a lot of cards around Christmastime and after Christmas saying that the kids inspired their kids to do something nice for somebody else."
For Sazama, that's the real reward — for it to encourage at least one person to help another, she said.
Now, Dalee is saving up for a trampoline — which is understandable, Sazama said, since they had saved for so long — and Marrich is set on giving toys "to kids without mommies and daddies" again in the future.
"It just shows that it pays off, it really does," Sazama said. "And just seeing them teach other kids, it's a reward."