At Long & Long, our motto of “family caring for family” laid the foundation for our firm when we first opened our doors, and has remained the central inspiration and driving force for us ever since. Whether you’re a current or former client, or just a member of our community seeking guidance in a crisis, we’re proud to look after every person who walks through our doors just as we would care for a member of our own family. When we heard the story of Richard Miller, we couldn’t help but think how he perfectly encapsulated our same familial values, and we wanted to share his story with all of you in the hopes of spreading Christmas cheer!
For the past four Decembers, Alma Bryant High School’s Special Education History Essentials and baseball coach Richard Miller, or “Coach,” as his students call him, has thrown a Christmas party for the special education students in his classroom. Many of his students come from low-income backgrounds and won’t be able to celebrate the holidays at home.
To fund the party, he asks members of the community for donations and reaches into his own pocket to give the kids a holiday to remember. With five boys of his own at home, Coach Miller extends his family values and giving nature to the students he works with everyday.
“I’ve always been in Special Ed,” he said. “For me, it’s about giving, trying to make a difference.”
Coach Miller and his wife, mother, and sons work hard every year to throw a Christmas party that these students look forward to all year long. He and his family were able to raise around $700 to fund the party this year, tripling the amount raised for last year’s party.
As Mobile, AL, attorneys who built their firm on strong family values, Bennett and Earle Long felt connected to Coach Miller’s story. After hearing about all the good that Coach Miller is doing for his students, their families, and the community, The Long Brothers were blown away by his generosity and were thrilled to shine a light on this amazing local man, his incredible family, and their festive party that brings warmth and cheer to those who need it most.
The idea for the party came from the Millers’ youngest son Thomas, who felt inspired to help the local homeless population after seeing a video on YouTube of other kids doing the same. Thomas wanted to give back to the less fortunate in his own community, but felt he was too young to make a difference. Coach Miller promptly assured him no one is ever too young to give back, and the Be Like Thomas Project was born.
The project’s ongoing mission was to deliver non-perishables in backpacks to lower income families in the area. Coach Miller soon noticed a need in his own school. His students’ clothes were worn, their shoes too tight, and Christmas cheer was hard to come by for students from lower-income households. The first Christmas party four years ago was small, with cupcakes and a new pair of sneakers for each student from “Coach.”
In four years the event has grown to include many helpers and hundreds of dollars in donations, which go toward a hot meal and several gifts for each student. The kids have even begun to write wishlists in English class for the party, requesting things like chocolate, tennis shoes, their favorite soft drink, new school pants, Auburn/Alabama gear, Nerf toys, and movies on DVD.
This year, students attending the party are in for a huge surprise: brand new Kindle Fire tablets. Coach Miller says the looks on their faces when they open the gifts is his favorite part.
“I know I don’t have to do this, I want to,” he once said to a student’s parent. “I’m big on community and giving back.”
Coach Miller has been moved to tears in the past by his community’s gracious generosity. After a surprisingly successful Facebook live fundraiser hosted by his mother recently, he said “the support can be overwhelming.” But there is always room for more kindness for these kids, most of whom come from low-income households and won’t have Christmas at all at home. Coach Miller welcomes any help, and can be reached on social media, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at school at 251-824-3213.
“I think this is what I’m meant to do,” he gushed, “I hope it continues well past my tenure here.”