Without question, the hardships and tragedies detailed in letters to Globe Santa remind most readers of their own relatively good fortune.
But the sheer volume of requests serves as evidence that even in Massachusetts, a state with a strong commitment to progressive social service programs and a strengthening economy, too many families are barely getting by.
For these parents, the holiday season means worrying that rather than a brief reprieve, their children might just face one more disappointment.
“I am a single mother with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and am having a hard time taking care of my kids,” a mother from a town southwest of Boston wrote to Globe Santa. “The financial struggles are just as exhausting as chemotherapy.”
The woman wrote on behalf of her two children, an 11-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son, who have been through the toughest year of their lives trying to understand their mother’s illness and adapt to a very different lifestyle while she undergoes treatment.
“I am staying positive and will never stop fighting,” she wrote. “My children are having a very difficult time.
“I would greatly appreciate the generosity of Globe Santa to help me through the holiday season and when I am better and my financial situation changes, I will be the one donating next year!” her letter concluded.
Another working mother from a city north of Boston reached out to Globe Santa for her 4-year-old son. The young woman has a full-time job, but the pay is low and the benefits nonexistent, so everything she earns is used to pay for rent and child care.
“I do not have a car and walk everywhere I can to avoid the expense of the bus,” she wrote. “I do not have cable TV or Internet service or a ‘smartphone.’ I have the most basic disposable cellphone so I can keep in contact with family and have a way to call for help in an emergency.”
Her son was recently diagnosed with severe food allergies, she said in her letter, and the series of doctor’s appointments to reach that conclusion, followed by a new regimen of medications and dietary guidelines, “made our already tough financial situation even tougher.”
Despite their circumstances, her son is a happy, inquisitive and loving child, she wrote, and she desperately wants him to experience the unique thrill of Christmas morning.
“He is truly a wonderful child with a great heart! He has a ready smile and often breaks into spontaneous giggles,” she wrote. “When I am having a tough day and just want to hang my head and cry, he rubs my back and tells me everything is going to be OK. For all the ways in which my child brings me joy, I would love to be able to give some of it back to him!”
These families will join tens of thousands of others whose Christmas will be made brighter this year thanks to a visit from Globe Santa. Last year, 49,147 children in 28,058 families across Eastern Massachusetts received gifts from the campaign.
Globe Santa uses all donations to buy and deliver toys to children; the Boston Globe Foundation pays all of the administrative costs associated with the campaign.