SEVIERVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The holidays are full of family traditions, but sometimes change is necessary. The Leonardo family wasn’t ready to give up on their holiday customs, so they decided to change it just slightly by paying it forward and donating a Christmas tree.
Every year, Amanda Leonardo and her two kids go all out when it comes to finding their perfect Christmas tree.
“Christmas time has just always been a really magical time to spend with my family, to spend with my kids, to be blessed,” Leonardo said.
Her description of the occasion almost sounds like it’s out of a movie. Picture National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, but maybe less dramatic.
“You’re fighting for the perfect tree, you know. You got these kids scrambling everywhere and you’ve got parents figuring out which direction their kids went. And it’s muddy. But, you know, it’s beautiful. You see these happy faces with these kids,” Leonardo said.
Over the years, where they find a Christmas tree changed. But, since about 2012, they’ve been going to Sandy Much Valley in North Carolina. It’s a big event for their family, complete with a tractor ride up the mountain.
“It’s a good tradition. Like, who doesn’t like to go cut down a tree? I’m allergic to pine. But, I will still go, cut it down. We take turns, cutting this thing with a handsaw, you know, I can take a chainsaw. I have a chainsaw, but we use a handsaw,” Leonardo said.
After finding the perfect tree, they enjoy hot cocoa and pick out an ornament to buy so they can remember that specific trip. It’s a tradition her kids wouldn’t let go of this year.
“My kids are teenagers and they still want to go with mom to go cut down a tree, even though, you know, they know we’re not going to have it in our house this year. But, the fact that they still enjoy that time with me, and they respect the tradition. You know, that means a lot,” Leonardo said.
Leonardo is a truck driver and won’t be home for the next month to care for a natural tree. She and her kids also won’t be spending Christmas at home. But, the family wanted to continue with the tradition.
“I’ve been fortunate that this pandemic has not affected me the way that it has affected other people. So, you know, why not go cut down a tree and donate it to a family that needs it. I have lots of extra decorations if they need decorations,” Leonardo said.
Leonardo has been through a lot herself. She’s a veteran, domestic abuse victim and cancer survivor. She said she has also had to live in her car at one point in her life, so she knows what it’s like to struggle.
However, she said she knows she is blessed and loves to give back any chance she can. Leonardo teaches her kids to do the same.
“I worked in the moving industry for a while. I had a customer, this is how it started, I had a customer who had a B&B and they were closing it down. They donated all the mini bottles of shampoos and conditioners and things like that. So, my kids were like, ‘what are we going to do with all this?’ My son was like, ‘oh, there’s a homeless guy that I see every day when we’re going to school. We can probably give him some,'” Leonardo said.
She and her kids packaged up the bottles and handed them out at a homeless shelter.
So, deciding what to do with their freshly cut Christmas tree was a no-brainer. “To be able to bless another family and my kids learn that tradition as well to help others and to be grateful for what we have. You know, that means a lot to me.”
Leonardo is looking to donate a tree to someone who can’t afford to buy one this year. She said if the price is right, she might be able to donate two.
If you need a tree or know a family who does, you can find Leonardo on social media and message her by clicking this link.
She will draw a name this week, before she and her kids head to pick out the tree this weekend. Leonardo said she will need to know how high the ceiling is for the family receiving the tree, so they can get the right fit.