FRANKLYWNOW - Mat-Su Special Santa Program gives presents to thousands of kids

Mat-Su Special Santa Program gives presents to thousands of kids

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It started as a program to help a handful of foster kids have a merry Christmas. Now, nearly two decades later, the Mat-Su Special Santa Program provides presents for thousands of kids around the Valley.

Mari Jo Parks is the program’s C.E.O., Chief Elf of Operations. She started the gift giveaway in 1997 to lend a helping hand to struggling parents.

“We’ve had families tell us over and over again we make their Christmas. It’s a miracle for them,” Parks said.

Santa’s Workshop at 831 S. Chugach Street in Palmer is a busy place just days before the big holiday. Volunteer Rosemary Myrick and her family spend every holiday season there. She’s one of about 40 volunteers who work to fulfill the kids’ wish lists.

“There are many moments every year when we all cry,” Myrick said. “Some of the wish lists that come through here are not kids asking for huge expensive toys. These are kids asking for basic necessities.”

When the Mat-Su Special Santa Program started, it helped about 90 kids. Last year, more than 3,500 families used the service.

Moms like Alexis Crayne are grateful for the helping hand. She said without this, there wouldn’t be anything under the tree for her 6-year-old son, Kenneth.

“This year it’s been really hard,” Crayne said. “A lot of stuff going on this year — car breaking down, rent. That’s all my money goes to is rent and car payments. This makes it so he can have presents.”

The program works with the Salvation Army and Toys for Tots to make it happen. All of the thousands of toys are donated.

“It makes me proud,” said Myrick as she looked around at the stacks of trucks and Barbie dolls. “It makes me proud this is my community.”

The post Mat-Su Special Santa Program gives presents to thousands of kids appeared first on KTVA 11.

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