The Holidays are Better Here: Bluffton 2012

By Eric Olson

December 6, 2012 Updated Dec 12, 2012 at 6:41 PM EDT

BLUFFTON, Indiana--Every community has folks who step up to help others over the holidays but retired Bluffton High School teacher Tony Garton is someone special. Thirty-four years ago Garton started ‘Buckets for Santa’ at Bluffton High where students pitted their basket shooting skills against his. If Garton won the student donated money to ‘Buckets for Santa’. If the student won he or she got a candy cane. The event was held during the students lunch break.

Over the years the effort grew. Eventually local businesses and government officials got involved, including the local police. Since Garton began the effort Buckets for Santa has raised over one hundred thousand dollars for folks in need making a difference in hundreds of lives, like the single mom who got Buckets gift certificates a couple of years ago.

“When I got out on the porch after we had given her the gift certificates she said to her two kids ‘now we can have Christmas’” recalls Garton, “and I just stood there and bawled.”

Garton’s retired from teaching now and he planned to end ‘Buckets for Santa’ last year, but then he got a letter from a local supporter.

“It said ‘not only does Buckets help with gifts and gas and that kind of thing, but it also gives people hope’. And I lost it,” he says. “Luanne my wife says ‘Buckets can’t end!’”

And it won’t. Kids and adults will be shooting Buckets for Santa again this year in the Bluffton High School gym from December 10to to the 20th from 11am to 1pm, collecting money for those in need while giving back something very special to those who give.

“That’s part of buckets,” Garton says. “If we can teach people to give, that’s the ultimate goal. It’s not about a candy cane or a dollar going into a jar it’s about you giving to somebody else.”

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