With little more than a month to go before the start of Chanukah, the Aleph Institute is gearing up for its annual toy distribution to benefit the children of parents who are either serving the U.S. armed forces abroad or in prison.

What makes the program unique, say officials, is that the packages are addressed as if they are delivered from the absent parents themselves. And while a single gift might not sound like much when considering the isolation, loneliness and pain such children endure, the officials stress that the positive effects are immeasurable.

"Whereas the spirit of Chanukah fills most Jewish children with excitement," says Rabbi Aaron Lipskar, executive director of the Florida-based Aleph Institute, which is affiliated with the worldwide Chabad-Lubavitch movement, "too many children approach this period with a sense of dread, insecurity and dwindling hope, when there is an absent parent."

The time can be equally as taxing on the parents who find themselves away from home.

"I'm so grateful to you for sending gifts to each of my four children," wrote Sgt. David Gold after a previous distribution. "Your gifts on my behalf really do connect me to them in a way that I cannot fulfill from here, in Iraq. It'll mean the world to them to receive those gifts. I wish I could see their smiling faces when the packages arrive, from me to them."

One boy, whose father is currently in prison, received an Aleph gift last year. All he knew was that the package came "from Daddy."

"How did he do it?" the boy asked his mother. Instead of opening the toys inside the package, Avi resolved to save them for when his father returns this March.

"We'll open them together," he said, "It'll be our celebration."

Two years ago, among its other recipients, Aleph sent Barbie dolls to seven-year-old twin girls.

"My girls take those Barbie dolls with them everywhere," their mother wrote. "I can't describe the connection to their father that those dolls have for my girls. Thank you Aleph. Please, will you send them gifts again this year?"