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.”
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.”
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’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.
“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.
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.”
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.”
— LINDA MATCHAN
Linda can be reached at email@example.com