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Updated Wednesday, December 17, 2014 at 3 PM EST
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 JANET DeMARTELAERE ROCCO TENAGLIA
BUFORD HERRONELIZABETH REIBER
GARY VETTRAINOGIOVANNINA WESOLOWSKI
MARY SULLIVANPHILIP KITTELL JR.
SHERRI LEWINSKITHOMAS AVEREYN
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Posted: 12/05/07

Romeo resident spreads
joy to ill children with gifts

by CHRIS GRAY
Observer Staff Writer
      Kip Kukuk of Romeo has definitely embraced the notion of "it is better to give than to receive."
       Kukuk's father first began a tradition while working at a hospital. Each year, he would collect donations from doctors, nurses, and others to help give gifts to children. He did this for 17 years until he passed away.
       "What happened was, he passed away 11 years ago, and one of the last things he said to me was `son, can you keep this going? Kids need help,'" Kukuk recalled. "So I've been doing it for 11 years now."
       Keeping true to his promise, Kukuk is throwing his 11th Annual Make a Wish Foundation Christmas Party on Saturday, Dec. 8 at 7 p.m. to help collect gifts to give to ill children.
       Kukuk works in collaboration with the Make a Wish Foundation, who help grant the wishes of children who have a progressive, degenerative, or malignant medical condition that has placed their life in jeopardy. He said the children sometimes wait for a wish to be granted, such as going on a trip, due to arranging the event or a child being hospitalized.
       "The gifts we collect are coordinated with a kid going on a trip, for example" he said. "It gives them something to look forward to, like having music to play while on a trip."
       Kukuk has not only helped give gifts to Make a Wish, but also plays Santa on Christmas Eve. He and his daughter gather some of their donated gifts and visit Mott Children's Hospital to pass them out to children. He dresses as Santa Claus while she dresses as an elf.
       "My daughter is on the Student Council, and they help collect toys as well," he said. "Last year, 319 toys were collected, and we're hoping we'll get more."
       He has been just as busy as Santa himself, spending his time getting his 40-acre property ready for the party. He goes all out and decorates his home and a barn he converts into a guesthouse, and has even arranged for entertainment. Billy Dupree will help party-goers sing along to Christmas carols, while a band known as "The Replacements" will perform at 9 p.m.
       "It's hard to miss my place," he said with a laugh. "And there's ample parking available, so people can come in and drop off gifts, stay and grab a bite to eat, dance, and meet new people."
       Mary Veltema, wish program specialist for the Make a Wish Foundation, has worked with Kukuk for the last couple of years. She said he and his contributions have been nothing short of wonderful.
       "He is really good because he asks us what we can use, as needs change from year to year, and everything he gives is new and appropriate," she said. "And I hear he has a great party."
       She said the gifts they collect from him and throughout the year from other generous people go into a "wish closet." From there the foundation puts together gift bags for kids when they come in for interviews as an icebreaker, or give them to kids while they are in treatment.
       "Sometimes they even come in and we let them pick something," she said. "We try to provide hope, strength, and joy to families."
       The foundation does everything from Best Buy shopping adventures to Disney World trips to arranging for kids to meet celebrities for granting wishes. Because of the efforts of people like Kukuk, she said, they help make those wishes possible.
       "We've had to be very conscious of the economy, but that is why it's important to have people like Kip out there," she said.
       Kukuk, however, doesn't need the recognition he may receive from his contributions, which after 11 years have numbered in the thousands.
       "It's for a great cause," he said. "I would rather give the recognition to the kids or the volunteers who help out."
       Kukuk's party can be found at 15360 29 Mile Road, Romeo, MI. If attending, or if you wish to send a gift to Kukuk's cause, Make a Wish Foundation suggest the following for gift donations:
       * CD Players
       * Multiple ethnic dolls
       * Best Buy gift cards
       * Travel games
       * iTunes cards
       * MP3 players
       * Sports magazines
       * University of Michigan sweatshirts
       * Detroit Lions and Pistons jerseys
       * Monetary donations can also be made out to the Make a Wish Foundation.


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