MACON, Ga. — Outside the Kaplan home is a wreath with the University of Georgia's football schedule for the year.
Mike Kaplan says his daughter Merrie loved all things Georgia sports, especially the Bulldogs. "Sports ruled at our house, thanks to Merrie -- that was my sports buddy. I haven't been to Sanford Stadium in 30 years without her."
With football season also comes Christmas, which was Merrie's favorite holiday. Kaplan says their home won't feel the same this holiday season.
"Merrie would pick out our Christmas tree, Merrie would help us decorate the tree, Merrie would do everything," he says, "I'm Jewish, and yet, every November 1, Merrie and I would have to start listening to Christmas music in the car."
Merrie had Williams syndrome, a condition that affects the immune system and learning, but her parents say it didn't stop her from making friends.
The combination of Merrie's love for people and a love for Christmas eventually led to the Merrie Christmas Project.
Merrie's mother, Nancy, says it will help them get through the holidays. "So much a help to me and my grief that we can help people have a great Christmas."
The project is through the United Way of Central Georgia, and Mike Kaplan says the money raised will help dozens of families be able to get food, Christmas trees, and gifts.
The goal is for the Merrie Christmas Project to bring holiday cheer for years to come.
To donate to the Merrie Christmas Project, visit the United Way of Central Georgia's website here.
To help with fundraising, Ronnie Milsap will be coming to Central Georgia to put on a benefit concert to benefit the Merrie Christmas Project.
According to a news release, the show will be at the Grand Opera House on Sunday, November 10 at 6 p.m.
Tickets are $45-55. Macon native Molly Stevens will open for Milsap.
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