Goodfellows volunteers deliver more than 1,000 gifts to DeKalb County children in need

Everly Skudlarek, left, Dave Skudlarek and Kelli Meserole delivered Goodfellows gifts as a family on Dec. 24, 2023.

SYCAMORE – In a show of Christmas spirit, hundreds volunteered as good fellows on a foggy Christmas Eve to deliver more than 1,100 gifts to DeKalb County children in need.

For some families, going around Sycamore, DeKalb and Cortland delivering gifts to others on Christmas Eve as part of nonprofit organization Goodfellows is as much a Christmas tradition as chopping down a Christmas tree.

That’s the case for DeKalb couple Dave Skudlarek and Kelli Meserole. Their first dates involved Goodfellows of DeKalb and Sycamore.

“When I first started dating my partner Kelli, a little over four years ago, this is something we did as one of our first dates. So basically, she had said to me, ‘This is important to me, and if you want to be a part of my life, this is something I like to do.’ So from there, we’ve done it now the last four years,” said Skudlarek, 39.

Over those years Meserole has taken an increasingly active role in the local group. She became a member of the Goodfellows of DeKalb and Sycamore Board. She’s already been a Goodfellow for 10 years.

A large crowd gathered at Blumen Gardens in Sycamore before 8 a.m. on Dec. 24, 2023, to participate in annual Goodfellows gift delivery event.

“When I was looking for a partner I definitely wanted someone who has a heart of service,” Meserole said. “To know that that means a lot to him as well is kind of just like a standard that I want to up hold for our family – that if you have the ability, you do what you can for others,” Meserole said.

“To know that that means a lot to him as well is kind of just like a standard that I want to up hold for our family – that if you have the ability, you do what you can for others.”

—  Kelli Meserole

While service to community is their family standard, their commitment to delivering on that aspiration has given them a unique anniversary date. Though their tradition is hardly unique.

Hundreds joined them at Blumen Gardens in Sycamore Sunday morning to deliver gifts as Goodfellows, and many of those volunteers have been participating for decades.

Goodfellows board member Ryan Hannan, 37, has been delivering gifts as a Goodfellow since he was in elementary school, he said. For him, it’s been a family tradition since childhood, and that’s something Skudlarek and Meserole hope to give Skudlarek’s daughter Everly Skudlarek.

“It’s something I started out doing by myself, and then when we came together our family started doing that. And again, I’m hoping to continue that tradition because so many families have been doing this for 20-plus years, and we’re now seeing their children and their families and their kids delivering, and hoping that we get to see that with Everly in the future,” Meserole said.

Everly Skudlarek, 8, participated in the tradition for the second time this year.

Everly Skudlarek, left, and Kelli Meserole collected gifts at Blumen Gardens on Dec. 24, 2023, to deliver to children in DeKalb as Goodfellows.

Everly spent Sunday morning carrying gift bags as large as her from her family’s car to three different families’ homes. At her age, just being a part of the volunteerism is big deal. She said she understands her family gives gifts to those who are less fortunate than them.

Her father, Dave Skudlarek, said he learned from a young age not to judge anyone dealing with financial hardships, especially children, and hopes his daughter learns the same from his parenting.

“There’s an element of luck in everything in life,” Dave Skudlarek said. “Not everything lines up for everyone all of the time and you can’t judge people or hold that against anyone, but especially a child. To just know that it’s to help kids, as a father that means everything to me, and I love being a part of something that helps children.”

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