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Monday, July 4, 2022

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Be a Secret Santa

Secret Santa Giving ideas

I was 11 when my mom shared her idea. Friends of ours were struggling financially and although one of their boys was working at a Christmas tree lot, they couldn’t afford a tree of their own that year. My mom’s idea was to buy a tree for them anonymously so they wouldn’t feel obligated to return a gift. My mom’s plan went off without a hitch! My heart soared when my friend excitedly told me that her brother’s boss told him to pick any tree on the lot and bring it home. It was a “Secret Santa” gift for his family.

It would have been understandable for my single, working mom to overlook their situation and focus on ours. Instead, she showed me how much we truly had. In the years that followed, we found ways to anonymously help others each holiday season.

My husband and I recently moved our family from New Jersey back to Florida, where I was raised, so that I could join the ABC Action News morning team. A few months after our move, super storm Sandy ravaged our old neighborhood, leaving many of our friends and family in very difficult circumstances. Believe me; the irony of escaping a hurricane by moving to Florida has not escaped us. This year, more than ever, we are reminded how truly fortunate we are and how important it is to keep my mother’s holiday tradition alive. My husband and I strive to pass these valuable lessons (and the fun) of anonymous giving on to our children, even though right now they find it hard to keep a secret!

In my experience, some of the best anonymous gifts came without much planning and preparation. However, in our quest to pass the tradition on to our kids, my husband and I have tossed around quite a few ideas, some of which I’m going to share.

Check with your house of worship to identify a family (or an individual) in need of specific items. Involve your kids when you buy, wrap and give the items. The same idea can be applied at a senior center, children’s hospital, Salvation Army, veteran’s center, Boys and Girls Club or a shelter for domestic abuse to name a few.

Let your kids put change in an expired meter to keep the car owner from getting a ticket or pay the toll for the car behind you in line. Ask your kids if they want to use the money in their piggy bank for these small gestures. I bet they will!

Sell handmade/homemade items (baked goods, artwork, T-shirts) to friends and neighbors. Give the proceeds to a charity of choice.

Involve your kids in making care packages, cards and/or artwork to mail to troops overseas.

If you think your child can keep a secret (or you just want to test the waters for the learning experience), ask her teacher if it would be okay to give the class a “Secret Santa” gift. This would let your child see firsthand the excitement and joy that an anonymous gift can provide. The gift could be something simple like coloring books from the dollar store or a larger item that the teacher might suggest for the whole class. Unfortunately this one won’t work for us since my little ones aren’t likely to keep a secret yet!

Shay Ryan is the newest meteorologist to join the ABC Action News morning team. 

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