PLYMOUTH, Mich. – The holiday tradition at a Plymouth gym keeps growing and growing. Each year, the owners of Hale Strength and Shape work with the gym's clients to gather gifts for foster children at the Ennis Center for Children.
For Kurt and Courtney Hessenbruch, it's a way to give back to the community.
"We took a leap of faith four years ago in really starting up our gym, buying the building and all the good things that have come from it. This is just above and beyond anything I could have imagined," Courtney Hessenbruch said. "We have children of our own and we see them on Christmas morning, what we're able to give them. Every child deserves a happy Christmas and to hear that there's some kids that, they are asking for a warm fuzzy blanket, just is so sweet and endearing and we want to give them that warm fuzzy blanket along with their favorite toy."
The Ennis Center for Children is a nonprofit adoption and foster care agency. It has locations in four different counties in Southeast Michigan -- Genesee, St. Clair, Wayne and Oakland counties -- and provides mental health services for children in addition to foster care placement and adoption services.
"It is really awesome to have people that are willing to go the extra mile to give to these kids," said Lydia Seale, from the Ennis Center for Children.
Each year, the Hessenbruchs have increased the number of foster children for whom they buy gifts for. This year, they and their clients bought for 121 foster children.
"I think it is awesome that we have this really cool gym of all women and we can fill up a whole big room full of gifts for children who otherwise wouldn't get anything for Christmas," said Emily Schnabel, an instructor at Hale.
Katie Lehnis has been working out at Hale Strength and Shape for three years. She buys a gift for a foster children to help teach her own sons about the importance of giving.
"It is all about giving," Lehnis said. "We bought for a boy who was 7 years old and we got him a basketball and football and Legos and some shirts and snow pants."
Seale said the center is very grateful to Hale Strength and Shape for the energy and work it puts in to help ensure the foster children have a good holiday.
"They are getting any and everything that was on their wish list," Seale said. "They tell us what they need, what size they wear, so they may be getting winter boots and coats and clothes that they might need, but they are also getting toys, board games, little gaming systems, little gift cards that people donate and things like that that kind of just help them establish a sense of normalcy."
The gifts collected will go to foster children in Detroit, Pontiac, Flint and Port Huron.
"These kids aren't necessarily asking for the latest and greatest electronic device. I mean, some are. I don't blame them but, you know, some of these kids just want basic needs met, and as a kid, you deserve that," Hessenbruch said.