'Willow Bill' and friends to spread Christmas cheer to troops

More than a dozen children at the Boys & Girls Club of Western Nevada are trying to brighten the Christmas of American soldiers overseas, and learn a few things in the process.

They joined "Willow Bill" Goulardt, a furniture maker from the Bay area who now lives in Carson City and volunteers to teach children how to make reindeer from coyote willow branches.

He spent several hours at the Boys & Girls Club on Wednesday, patiently showing kids ranging in age from 7-13 how to drill a hole, using a power drill, to install deck screws to hold the branches together in the shape of a reindeer.

The reindeer are about 2 feet high, and "Willow Bill" said when they are done, the children will sign them, and hopefully send them to troops serving in Iraq.

"They'll be decorated with red, white and blue lights," he said.

He had hoped the Nevada National Guard would be able to ship the reindeer overseas, but said budget cuts have prevented that and he now hopes to raise donations to mail the holiday creations to the troops.

"Willow Bill" said he goes door-to-door this time of year to sell the reindeer for $25 each. The funds allow him to spend time teaching students in the schools and at the club.

He said students from his reindeer-making classes have created the wooden Christmas animals for display at the Capitol, the Nevada State Museum, the Nevada Commission on Tourism building, the Legislature, the Children's Museum of Northern Nevada and the old armory building.

"Pretty soon you won't be able to look anywhere without seeing a reindeer," he said. "They'll be all over Carson City in a week or two."

"Willow Bill" said he has worked with about 2,500 Carson City students over the past eight years. The children get to hold the drills, with Willow Bill's help, and help measure the sticks and memorize the measurements.

"It's good for the community, and whatever is good for the community is definitely good for all of us," he said.

Donovan Campbell, 11, a student at Carson Middle School, was first in the gym of the Boys & Girls Club, so he got to be Willow Bill's assistant, at least until 10 more children showed up.

His sister, Chardonnay, 13, also a CMS student, said she enjoyed working on the reindeer.

"I've never made them out of wood before," she said. "But I've made them out of pipe cleaners."

"Willow Bill" was patient with the children, emphasizing safety and gently correcting one who opened up one of the tools.

"What's the first rule?" he asked.

"Safety first," they responded in unison.

It was Maria Gonzales DeLeon's first reindeer, but not her first experience working with tools.

"It was fun," the 12-year-old CMS student said. "I love working with tools."

• Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at kwoodmansee@nevadaappeal.com or 881-7351.

You Can Help

To donate to the Reindeer for Soldiers project, call "Willow" Bill Goulardt at 842-3594.


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