Cowboy Christmas for Kids President Joe Freeman (front row, right) presents a ceremonial check for $35,000 to Llano Independent School District Superintendent Mac Edwards (front, left) in December 2023. The nonprofit works with LISD to ensure Llano County children in need have a merry Christmas. Courtesy photo
Cowboy Christmas for Kids is expanding its reach to lakeside communities in eastern Llano County, including Kingsland and Horseshoe Bay. It is also seeking volunteers from the new territory. The fundraising organization has served the rural, western half of Llano County for the past three years.
“We’re just trying to fill some gaps,” organization President Joe Freeman told DailyTrib.com. “It’s a cruel world when a little kid doesn’t have what they need.”
Freeman was inspired to start raising money to provide a merrier Christmas after reading “letters to Santa” from Llano-area children in a local newspaper in 2020 that asked for basic necessities, such as socks, underwear, and even food.
“Stuff we take for granted, like shampoo, they can’t afford that stuff,” he said.
His project started as an informal push to raise $5,000, which was handed over by a single donor that year.
In 2021, Freeman raised $22,000; in 2022, the total was $30,000. Cowboy Christmas for Kids became an official 501 (c)(3) nonprofit charitable organization in 2023 with a board of eight directors.
To raise money, Freeman, directors, and volunteers hand distribute a letter to potential donors that delves into the organization’s mission and highlights the heartbreaking realities of families struggling during the holidays. Money is also raised through rodeos, like the team roping and barrel racing events held at the John L. Kuykendall Arena in October 2023.
LISD counselors, nurses, teachers, and other staff identify kids who need help and distribute the gifts, necessities, and food purchased with the raised funds.
Roughly 240 children within the district were identified as “in need” in 2023.
Freeman hopes the nonprofit’s expansion can attract volunteers and donors from Kingsland, Horseshoe Bay, and other lakeside communities. Cowboy Christmas for Kids is mostly based in the tight-knit agricultural community surrounding Llano, but many of the kids who need the most help attend Packsaddle Elementary School in Kingsland, he said.
To learn more about Cowboy Christmas for Kids, visit its Facebook page. To volunteer or make a donation, call Freeman at 325-248-3098.