Courtesy of Google Nest

The holidays are a time of connection. All over the world, families are reuniting, bonding, and making new memories that will last a lifetime. But for hundreds of thousands of military families, celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Yule is impossible with service members stationed overseas. To paraphrase "I'll Be Home for Christmas," togetherness for military families during this time of the year may just be a dream.

Fortunately, in 2019, we can do a little bit better than dreams — thanks to tech. This year, the USO, the leading military support organization in America, and Google Nest are teaming up to ensure military families who can't reunite for the holidays can always stay connected. With the Google Nest Hub, a digital assistant that makes it easy to share photos from all over the world in real time — families can keep in touch even across great distances.

Keep Reading
Google Nest
True
U.S. Army

For most people, the holidays are the busiest time of year. There are parties, trips to the store, school plays, parades, religious services, countless hours spent decorating and cleaning the house, and that long line at the mall to see Santa.

But in the end, the season is all about spending quality time making memories with the people we love. Unfortunately, we can't always see all of our loved ones over the holidays. But these days, it's a lot easier to stay connected with grandma and grandpa or our kids off at college.

Keep Reading
Google Nest
True
Evey Koen

When you marry into the military, you know you're signing up for a life of occasional-to-frequent separation. Not only are service members sent around the globe during deployment, but they also attend training schools leading up to missions, which can mean months away from their loved ones.

While we often recognize the sacrifices soldiers make with their service, it's easy to overlook the sacrifices their spouses and children make as well. When your significant other is gone for months at a time, maintaining a relationship gets complicated. And when a parent is gone for months at a time, you have to come up with creative ways to stay connected as a family.

Keep Reading
Google Nest
True
Courtesy of Macy's

In many ways, 18-year-old Idaho native, Hank Cazier, is like any other teenager you've met. He loves chocolate, pop music, and playing games with his family. He has lofty dreams of modeling for a major clothing company one day. But one thing that sets him apart may also jeopardize his future is his recent battle against a brain tumor.

Cazier was diagnosed in 2015. When he had surgery to remove the tumor, he received trauma to his brain and lost some of his motor functionality. He's been in physical, occupational, and speech therapy ever since. The experience impacted Cazier's confidence and self-esteem, so he's been looking for a way to build himself back up again.

"I wanted to do something that helped me look forward to the future," he says.

Enter Make-A-Wish, a nonprofit organization that grants wishes for children battling critical illnesses, providing them a chance to make the impossible possible. The organization partnered with Macy's to raise awareness and help make those wishes a reality. The hope is that the "wish effect" will improve their quality of life and empower them with the strength they need to overcome these illnesses and look towards the future. That was a particularly big deal for Cazier, who had been feeling like so many of his wishes weren't going to be possible because of his critical illness.

"In the beginning, it was hard to accept that it would be improbable for me to accomplish my previous goals because my illness took away so many of my physical abilities," says Cazier. His wish of becoming a model also seemed out of reach.

But Macy's and Make-A-Wish didn't see it like that. Once they learned about Cazier's wish, they knew he had to make it come true by inviting him to be part of the magical Macy's holiday shoot in New York.

Courtesy of Macy's

Make-A-Wish can't fulfill children's wishes without the generosity of donors and partners like Macy's. In fact, since 2003, Macy's has given more than $122 million to Make-A-Wish and impacted the lives of more than 2.9 million people.

Cazier's wish experience was beyond what he could've imagined, and it filled him with so much joy and confidence. "It is like waking up and discovering that you have super powers. It feels amazing!" he exclaims.

One of the best parts about the day for him was the kindness everyone who helped make it happen showed him.

"The employees of Macy's and Make-A-Wish made me feel welcome, warm, and cared for," he says. "I am truly grateful that even though they were busy doing their jobs, they were able to show kindness and compassion towards me in all of the little details."

He also got to spend part of the shoot outdoors, which, as someone who loves climbing, hiking, and scuba-diving but has trouble doing those activities now, was very welcome.

Courtesy of Macy's

Overall, Cazier feels he grew a lot during his modeling wish and is now emboldened to work towards a better quality of life. "I want to acquire skills that help me continue to improve in these circumstances," he says.

You can change the lives of more kids like Cazier just by writing a letter to Santa and dropping it in the big red letterbox at Macy's (you can also write and submit one online). For every letter received before Dec. 24, 2019, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. By writing a letter to Santa, you can help a child replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy, and anxiety with hope.

Believe
Macy's