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For 66 years Globe Santa, a program of the Boston Globe Foundation, has provided gifts to children in need at holiday time. Please consider giving by phone, mail or online at globesanta.org.

Sometimes all they remember is being remembered.

Sometimes they recall a cherished toy.

But decades later, these adults who were Globe Santa recipients as children remain deeply grateful for the Globe Santa program and say it profoundly shaped their lives. “It feels like my duty, where possible, to give back to the community,” said Nhu Vu of Newton. “I tell my boys that how they experience life is not how everybody does.”

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LENNY CLARKE

When he was 11, Lenny Clarke’s mother tearfully told her eight kids there’d be no gifts that Christmas, since their dad was too sick to work. Clarke’s older sister secretly wrote Globe Santa, and he delivered. Ten boxes filled with toys showed up on their Cambridge porch, including a fire truck and fireman’s helmet for Lenny.

“It was the greatest Christmas of my life,” said Clarke, now 68 and a standup comic and regular on late-night talk shows. “I’ll never forget what they did for us – never, never, never.”

Cheryl Wheeler, whose family was forced to move after the death of her father, remembers receiving a little red suitcase. She now works for Takeda pharmaceutical company.
Cheryl Wheeler, whose family was forced to move after the death of her father, remembers receiving a little red suitcase. She now works for Takeda pharmaceutical company.Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe

CHERYL WHEELER

When her father died she was 5, the youngest of six, and a grim Christmas loomed for them in South Boston. “It was all [my mother] could do to put food on the table,” said Wheeler, now in her 50s. She still doesn’t know who alerted Globe Santa, but a huge box arrived, filled with presents, including child-sized red suitcases for Wheeler.

“It was the best thing ever,” said Wheeler, who works in corporate communications, and it taught her a life lesson. “Being charitable feeds my soul, and it started the year that Globe Santa helped us.”

Long Tong, 33, whose parents moved from Hong Kong, was less than 10 years old when he was a Globe Santa recipient. He remembers the arrival of an enormous box wrapped in brown paper. Tong is now an accountant who sidelines as a photographer.
Long Tong, 33, whose parents moved from Hong Kong, was less than 10 years old when he was a Globe Santa recipient. He remembers the arrival of an enormous box wrapped in brown paper. Tong is now an accountant who sidelines as a photographer.Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe

LONG TONG

Long Tong’s parents left Hong Kong in the 1980s, and it was no small challenge to have a festive Christmas with seven kids in a South Boston apartment. But Globe Santa delivered a box wrapped in brown paper filled with toys, and the box alone was a gift.

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“Just seeing that box provided a sense of normalcy, a little happiness, an additional level of joy we wouldn’t have had otherwise,” said Tong, 33, an accountant who lives in Roslindale.

Nhu Vu remembers receiving water colors and coloring books when he was a child in Allston in the 1980s. Vu, 42, whose parents fled Vietnam, now lives in Newton and works in software.
Nhu Vu remembers receiving water colors and coloring books when he was a child in Allston in the 1980s. Vu, 42, whose parents fled Vietnam, now lives in Newton and works in software.Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe

NHU VU

His parents fled Vietnam after the war, reinventing their lives in Boston, with no money for luxuries like Christmas gifts. But they reached out to Globe Santa, and a box arrived “with a whole bunch of stuff that was just for us, like a paint set and coloring books!” said Vu, 42, who lives in Newton and works in software sales. Now he has two sons of his own.

“My wife and I try to instill in them a sense of gratitude,” he said. “There are all sorts of circumstances people can’t control and it’s our duty to help lift them up.”

Rita Cornelio remembers receiving a teddy bear as a Globe Santa recipient 1957 when she was a young girl in the North End. Cornelio is now the owner of a Medford travel agency, Mystic Valley Travel, and volunteers for the Kiwanis' Globe Santa program.
Rita Cornelio remembers receiving a teddy bear as a Globe Santa recipient 1957 when she was a young girl in the North End. Cornelio is now the owner of a Medford travel agency, Mystic Valley Travel, and volunteers for the Kiwanis' Globe Santa program.Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe

RITA CORNELIO

She was 7 in 1956 when she and her mother left Italy and moved to Boston’s North End. Her dad was working in Argentina. Her mom worked seven days a week, leaving her in the care of the Sisters of St. Joseph at St. John School who told her about a new organization that helped families at Christmas. She was still learning English but wrote a letter to Globe Santa and he brought her books, toys, games, even a cuddly brown teddy bear. “My name was on the box,” said Cornelio, 72, who owns a Medford travel agency and has helped raise thousands of dollars for Globe Santa through the Medford Kiwanis Club. “That in itself was special.”

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— LINDA MATCHAN


Linda can be reached at linda.matchan@globe.com