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State Honoree

Karlee Albertson

Billings, Montana

Karlee Albertson, 12, of Billings, Mont., a sixth-grader at Castle Rock Middle School, has raised nearly $20,000 over the past six years to buy anonymous Christmas gifts for struggling families and individuals, by painting nails at school events and community venues. When she was just a first-grader, Karlee saw a TV commercial about “being the change you wish to see.” She and her mother considered many possible ways she could make a difference in her community before Karlee came up with the idea of painting nails at her school’s craft fair and using the proceeds to “adopt” students and families on the school’s Christmas Giving Tree. “I felt it was important to help those less fortunate people who couldn’t afford Christmas,” she said.

Shortly afterward, Karlee’s grandfather, who always loved Christmastime, died on Christmas Eve, so Karlee decided to continue “as a way to carry on his memory,” she said. She began painting nails at various community events and locations, charging $3 per customer. She also started receiving donations of money, gift cards and nail polish as word of her project spread and people learned about her GoFundMe page. With money in hand, Karlee spends a lot of time shopping for presents, and wraps them all with the help of a Boy Scout troop and other volunteers. So far, she has given Christmas gifts anonymously to more than 250 people. “My dream would be that someday, everybody everywhere has a Christmas present under their tree and feels loved and blessed,” said Karlee.