First Lady gives kids a Christmas

  • 2000-12-21
  • Darius James Ross
VILNIUS - The wife of Lithuania's president, Alma Adamkiene, spent the better part of the week from Dec. 11 to Dec. 15 collecting donated Christmas gifts as part of a charity drive in support of underprivileged Lithuanian children.

"Christmas is a family tradition, and many people are fortunate enough to have a Christmas tree. My heart aches when I think of children in orphanages who may not be able to celebrate Christmas in the same way as wealthier people," said Adamkiene.

She and her volunteers spent the week driving around Vilnius with a caravan of trucks decorated with Christmas lights in order to gather the gifts. The trucks were provided at no charge by The Coca-Cola Company.

Several points in the city, including the parliament buildings and the presidential palace, were designated as drop-off places where crowds would gather to watch the gifts being presented. Lithuanian television station TV3 donated air time to promote the events. Santa Claus and an elf were there to load the trucks with the candy and toys that were donated by local business people.

"My husband and I realized that almost all of the supporters of this charity drive are young Lithuanian business people. This made us very happy as the right people are behind it," she said. Adamkiene and her helpers will drive to different parts of Lithuania on Dec. 22 and 23 to deliver the gifts.

Santa will join her along with a group of musicians. "We are very happy with the response that we have received."

Alma Adamkiene started her special charitable fund for children on March 17, 1999. Her main goal is to support children in impoverished rural areas.

"Kids living in cities have more opportunities, I think of children in villages who have less access to the things city kids take for granted," she said. "I don't want those kids to be forgotten, sometimes they need warmth more than city kids."

Eighty percent of the fund's activities are geared towards improving education in rural areas. She is the official patron of two Lithuanian children's hospitals. Adamkiene doesn't exclude anyone, she also donates time and effort to helping delinquent children living in rehabilitation facilities. This is the first year she has organized a Christmas charity drive. "It's definitely not the last," she said.