ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — Gratitude is often proven by giving back.

Those are the two things we see a lot of this time of year- and the Naval Academy in Annapolis is no different. Their “Giving Tree” tradition continues this year with the mission of supporting those in need, all with a smile.

“They break down in tears because it’s so meaningful to them to know there are people out there who are struggling,” Emily Vincent, of the Salvation Army, said.

The Giving Tree tradition transforms wish lists from children in need into holiday miracles, one angel at a time.

“They take 500 of our angels, they adopt them and they put them on a tree,” Vincent said. “People come and they get to take them and buy gifts for them for Christmas.”

Each child writes a letter to Santa and three desired items- anything from basic needs, to dream gifts.

“If a child does not get adopted, then the Salvation Army takes on that child and adopts that child,” Vincent said.

That’s why for 29 years, the Naval Academy and the Salvation Army have stuffed the holidays full of joy by working together to give kids who might not have it otherwise, a very merry Christmas.

“It’s a blessing and we are extremely grateful,” Vincent said. “We love that this is a tradition the Navy has.”

The Midshipmen who help wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I think it’s one of my favorite Christmas traditions,” a Midshipmen told WJZ. “It doesn’t necessarily put you in the spotlight, and I think that’s what it’s all about.”

Over the years, their partnership has helped little boys and girls all over Annapolis rush to the tree on Christmas morning.

“Just to know that I come from a background like that and to give to those kids that were in my shoes means a lot to me,” another Midshipmen said.

The Angel Tree Program began in 1979, and year after year, they grow stronger.

“To be able to give Christmas to somebody is just an amazing thing,” Vincent said.

The Naval Academy is collecting gifts for families up until December 10.

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