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Secret Santa asks for help granting wishes in Sonoma County

Santa Claus has a secret.

This year, the year of COVID-19, St. Nick needs some serious help if a great many local children and adults who struggle are to have a hope of receiving something for Christmas.

Consequences of the pandemic have played havoc with Sonoma County’s 2020 Secret Santa program.

Secret Santa is the extraordinary, 30-year-old community endeavor that each year produces heart-shaped ornaments that bear the first names and ages of people in need, along with one or two of the listed person’s wishes for a gift of something essential or simply desired. Caring individuals choose a heart, or two, from trees placed at workplaces and other locations throughout the county, then go shopping for the people listed.

That could not happen this year. Amid the restrictions imposed in response to the pandemic, Secret Santa hearts could not be distributed publicly, and gifts could not purchased and delivered.

Instead, benefactors are asked to go online and to virtually select a heart, then make a wish come true by making a donation to Secret Santa or purchasing a gift card for the recipient.

At this moment, a great many wishes are going unanswered.

“With the holidays approaching, Secret Santa needs your help,” said Katelyn Willoughby-Bagley of the Center for Volunteer & Nonprofit Leadership, a major partner in the program.

“12,238 holiday wishes were submitted this year via hearts, and to date, only 1,200 hearts have been adopted.”

Anyone interested in adopting one or more Secret Santa hearts, or learning about the ambitious and far-reaching holiday gift program, can go to secretsantanow.org.

As always, there are several efforts in play to raise dollars for granting Secret Santa wishes.

On Saturday at Santa Rosa’s Montgomery Village shopping center, program partners hosted a photos-with-Santa fundraiser. Coronavirus precautions were observed as parents made donations to Secret Santa in return for photos of their kids with the great bearded one.

From 6 a.m. on Dec. 17 until 9 a.m on Dec. 18, KZST radio personalities will collect donations to Secret Santa while playing song request during a broadcast marathon at Montgomery Village.

KZST is a leading partner in Secret Santa, along with Friedman’s Home Improvement.

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