Fostering Christmas Cheer in the Community

Olivet students partner with local church to support foster children with Christmas gifts.

Dr. Brian Hyma ‘05 Ed.D., a professor in Olivet’s Department of Exercise Science and his wife, Melissa (Leatherman) ‘03 are spreading the hope of Christmas this season and inspiring others to do the same.  Melissa, a physical therapist, is a part of a small group at River Valley Christian Fellowship that is making a big impact.

The small group, Live 1:17, is taking action in helping foster kids feel . Each year, the small group raises money through the church to donate gifts to foster children within the community. Each child submits their Christmas wish list, and the group sponsors a child. At the end of the initiative, the foster children and their families are invited to attend a come and go event where the gifts are presented to the foster children to experience a fun Christmas celebration together.

Melissa described the event as an opportunity for every kid to have a wishlist, and each year the amount of kids helped has grown. What began with helping 35 foster children receive gifts, has now become a community-oriented project that supports almost 200 foster children. This year, Live 1:17 needed additional help to provide these foster children with a Christmas to remember. 

The Hymas began brainstorming how to expand the level of support, and Brian thought that Olivet students within his department may want to contribute. Brian said, “We wanted to provide a way for students to join a cause that was bigger than themselves.” 

A goal was set to fundraise enough to support a small group of foster children. The initial goal was quickly met as more students were inspired to contribute to the event. Fifty students from the exercise science department donated more than $400. Through their generosity, five foster children were supported.

The group Live 1:17, inspired by Isaiah 1:17, started at River Valley Church to cater to the needs of adoptive and foster parents. They Hymas have adopted three children and felt that this group added a lot of value for the local area.


On December 16, the fourth annual Christmas party celebrated all of the families and children. Children’s faces lit up while opening their Christmas gifts.

Melissa described this opportunity as “a neat way for the community to partner around a local church that is taking on a community initiative.” 

For more information about life at Olivet, contact the Office of Admissions admissions@olivet.edu or 800-648-1463.

Photos submitted.
Published: 12/17/2021
MC