Perhaps no bell ringer in the Kansas City area has raised more red kettle funds in recent years than 55-year-old Army veteran Ronnie Ford.

Ronnie, who is a double amputee from the knees down, has been working as a paid bell ringer each holiday season for the past four years in front of WalMart near 75th Street and I-35 in Overland Park.

His reason for bell ringing is so simple, yet so powerful – he wants to raise money for kids to receive toys on Christmas.

“Some kids aren’t fortunate enough to have a toy on Christmas,” Ronnie said. “That’s what I’m mainly out here for (as a bell ringer). People have other reasons for why they’re out here – rent, utilities and stuff like that – but I’m out here for the kids. I’ve been a kid before and I know how it feels to not have a toy on Christmas Day. My motto is, ‘If you put something in that kettle, you make a kid smile. If don’t put anything in that kettle, you make them frown.’”

Ronnie’s unfortunate fate came when he was 28 years old. He was in his prime, he said, and ready to take on the world.

“I was going out one day and I was at a club, and a guy shot me with a 9mm seven times in my legs,” he said. “That’s when I learned about the Lord. The spirit took me up in the air and it’s unbelievable the way I felt with my body on the ground and the spirit going up. It was like I was a newborn baby being picked up and lifted in the air. I don’t know what it could have been that day other than the Lord. It was like he took me up in the air and said, ‘You’re not going anywhere yet. I’ve got something for you to do.’”

As The Salvation Army’s shortage of donations grew this holiday season, Ronnie volunteered to step up and increase his bell ringing shifts from four days per week to sometimes six days per week. And equally amazing – he has done this while balancing a vigorous schedule of dialysis treatments three times a week, an ongoing byproduct of the injuries he sustained more than 25 years ago.

“I’m passionate about what I do,” he said. “I guess this is what the Lord wanted me to do. I asked him to make it possible and that’s what he did. I’m here to make it happen.”

Ronnie is very in-tune about The Salvation Army’s current needs, and also the numerous ways the organization helps people in our community – many of whom have been through difficult life circumstances like him.

“(The Salvation Army) helps everybody. All you have to do to qualify is fill-out an application, and that’s it. If you qualify, they’ll help you out. They’ll help you out with furniture, they’ll help you out with clothes, they’ll help you with your bills.”

Captain Joaquin Rangel, who leads The Salvation Army’s Westport Temple Corps in Kansas City, Mo. has developed a close relationship with Ronnie over the years and has seen his strong character on display more than anyone else from the organization.

“I think there are a few lessons we can learn from Ronnie, if not more,” Rangel said. “One of them is don’t ever give up. Things happen, that’s for sure, but you have to get up and keep going. A lot of things have happened in his life, but he didn’t give up. He just got up and continued on.”