As Christmas approaches, one group of west county boys and their families will have a bond with children they have never met.
The 70 members of Cub Scout Pack 737, their siblings and even some teachers at Clarksville Elementary School bought, wrapped and bundled gifts for 115 needy children in Baltimore.
"It's been a real eye-opener for my guys; they've learned a lot about the way other people live," said Cindy Ousborne, a Clarksville resident and den mother of the Sharks, the five fifth-graders who delivered the gifts Friday to the Salvation Army's Baltimore headquarters.
One of the Sharks, 11-year-old Adam Corbett of Dayton, said the project helped put holiday gift-giving into perspective.
"It makes me realize how much they get for Christmas, while we get a lot. I feel kind of sorry [for them]," he said.
The gifts will be distributed as part of the Salvation Army's Angel Tree Program. Needy children or their parents write down the child's name, age, sex, Christmas wish and clothing size on a paper angel, which is sent out to an individual or group that wishes to donate gifts.
Angels sent to Pack 737 were from community centers in Patterson Park and West Baltimore within the city, and from Middle River in Baltimore County.
The gifts will be distributed at holiday parties next week. Those receiving the gifts range from a newborn, whose angel went to Mrs. Ousborne, to teen-agers who asked for sports equipment.
Mrs. Ousborne fulfilled her angel duty with a sweater, two sleepers and a hat and mittens for the newborn. Her son Tim bought a ping-pong paddle for an 11-year-old boy.
Other scouts bought toy drums, baby dolls, chess sets and a pool cue.
"Nobody asked for the popular toys, like Power Rangers," or for that matter, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Mrs. Ousborne said.
Mrs. Ousborne said that when a Salvation Army worker explained how the program worked, "I was surprised when she told me these were probably the only gifts [the children] would receive."
Once all the members of the pack had wrapped their gifts, they were collected by the Sharks, made up of Adam, Tim and 10-year-olds Mikie Rexroad, of Highland, Adam Corbett, of Dayton, Ethan Montgomery and Brad Chapel, both of Clarksville.
The Sharks were helped out by one of Mrs. Ousborne's younger sons, Benny, 8, also a member of Pack 737, and two neighbors, Kenny and Curtis Gilliam, aged 9 and 8.
Firman Kistler, controller of the Salvation Army's Baltimore Area Command, said donors like the program because they are giving to an individual.
"It's a real growing, popular way of distributing the gifts," largely because it is so much more personalized, he said.
Mr. Kistler said that in the three years he has worked at the command, the program has grown from 500 gifts to 3,000 last year.