Christmas is a special time of year, especially for young ones. The excitement of the season twinkles in children’s eyes and the joy of the holiday is reflected in their laughter.

Sadly, not every child will have a merry time this Christmas season. Throughout our nation there are at-risk children; some needing basic necessities and others lacking parental love and care.

A few years into our marriage, my husband and I encountered families that took in teenage foster children. We were challenged by their example and it inspired us to become foster parents ourselves. We weren't sure how we were going to do it because we had young children of our own, but we began bringing these teens into our home.

Over the years we have been blessed to be the parents of five biological children and 23 foster children. Being a foster family helped teach our biological children the joy of opening our hearts and sharing our home, while it gave our foster children a picture of an imperfect ‘normal’ family. Time and time again our efforts to help others were actually precious blessings for our own family.

The Christmas season often stirs up that desire to bring joy to others. We give gifts and perform acts of service, sometimes even reaching out to help people we hardly know. And just maybe you know some at-risk children that you can reach out to with a gift. There are many organized efforts like the Marine’s Toys for Tots drive or the Angel Tree program, with donation sites in communities across the country.

Annual giving campaigns are very deserving of our goodwill, but the needs of at-risk children go beyond a Christmas gift. One doesn’t have to look very far to find a variety of ways you can help year-round.

Perhaps your home could provide a safe haven for a foster child. Or, you might take the part of a big brother or sister and spend time with a child who needs the positive influence of a caring mentor. You may be able to tutor a child, teach a Sunday School class, or help equip kids with a skill through a community program.

The challenge of helping at-risk children can seem overwhelming at first. There are so many at-risk children that our best efforts may seem small in comparison, but bringing hope and help to a child starts with a first step.

My husband and I did not set out to have 23 foster children. We simply followed the example of others and that led us into life-changing roles.

Now I hope to challenge you to see how best to use the talents, skills, and resources you’ve been blessed with to improve the life of a child in need.

Republican Michele Bachmann represents Minnesota's 6th District in the U.S. House of Representatives.