Secret Santas bring joy to Northland familiesA record number of families have anonymously stepped forward to adopt a family that otherwise wouldn’t have gifts this Christmas.
By: By Mike Simonson, Wisconsin Public Radio, Superior Telegram
A record number of families have anonymously stepped forward to adopt a family that otherwise wouldn’t have gifts this Christmas.
This long-time Salvation Army program matches up families to adopt, complete with Christmas wish-lists from the family in need. So, on Monday, they showed up with loads of gifts for kids and parents alike.
Each family is given a number so when the adopted family comes the next day, they can keep everything matched up. By 8 p.m. volunteer Patty Hierl gazed over the Superior National Guard Armory gym floor covered with gifts.
“Lots of fun and lots of love and wholeheartedness. We have bikes, we have shovels, we have Tonka trucks, we have clothes, we have skateboards, we have sleds. I’m looking for a partridge in a pear tree actually,” Hierl said.
And still more packages came in.
In fact, a record number of families volunteered to adopt-a-family this year – 106 families will get an arm load of wrapped gifts. On the flip side, a record number of more than 800 families applied for adoption this year.
Beth Campbell drove 45 miles from her home in Brule so she could be Santa to a single mother and two small children that she’ll never meet.
“I got some musical instruments, they’re only three and six years old. A lot of noise makers. A game, some robots, cars,” she said
Why spend the time and money? Campbell says it’s an example for her own kids. And there’s something in it for herself.
“Super fun. Made me feel good,” Campbell said. “Every time I drove up the 45 miles I felt good about doing it.”
Steve and Judy Fortuna have been adopting families through the Superior Salvation Army for years.
"That’s what Christmas is all about. Yah, that’s what people need. Things are tough. You gotta do what you can do. It’s not always about us. That’s why I think in general why we’re in trouble. It’s too much me, me, me. It’s more than me out there."
The next morning a line of parents wait outside the Armory to pick up their packages. Each of them has a number ready.
Their stories are usually of hard times in a tough economy. Candice Smeback of Superior and her husband have been without work for a year. They can barely afford the essentials, let alone Christmas gifts for their kids.
“My kids are going to be happy on Christmas. Ya, it’s nice that somebody cares. People don’t have to do it but it’s nice that some people do care to do it,” she said
Holding her two-year-old boy, Krystal McKay and her husband have three kids to look after. Now, she’s getting more presents than she imagined.
“It’s awesome. We brought stuff out and then they’re like ‘I think there’s more’ and I was like ‘Wow’, like, ‘Oh, awesome’,” she said.
Volunteer Colleen Baker has been on both sides of this program.
“Oh my God, it’s so emotional. So many different families and hearing their stories going out and it’s a joy emotional. And just knowing that there’s a safety net. Just somebody there to catch you.”
Baker doesn’t know why these people quietly, anonymously bring in these sacks of gifts.
“Maybe walked in our footsteps. Maybe afraid of walking in our footsteps and just hoping if they do, somebody will be there for them. It’s a circle that you create because we’re talking that once we get on our feet we want to do this back.”