Each year, thousands of Chicagoans pin their hopes of a Merry Christmas on “Dear Santa” letters.  These letters will arrive at the post office and most will NEVER get answered.

Now there's an answer...

There Really Is A Santa Claus provides a wonderful and memorable way to experience giving.  There are thousands of Chicagoans that struggle to pay utility bills, put food on the table or purchase a winter coat for their child.  Putting a gift under the tree on Christmas morning is next to impossible.  There Really Is A Santa Claus provides an intimate, grass roots opportunity to give back to those in need.  There Really Is A Santa Claus gives you the opportunity to be as involved as you like - we always encourage donors to purchase gifts, but your involvement can range from donating money to hand delivering gifts to a family.  Read the 'How It Works' section and let us know how you'd like to help.

The 2013 giving season was a fantastic success in a myriad of ways. Let alone providing $40,000 worth of gifts to 60 families, There Really Is A Santa Claus received some unexpected press from our local CBS News. After meeting CBS reporter Jim Williams at the post office while selecting this year's letters, CBS requested to accompany us on one of our deliveries. The coverage has helped broaden the network of donors participating in There Really Is A Santa Claus.  Please click on the video below to see CBS's story about There Really Is A Santa Claus.

 

These are some memorable experiences our organization has had in the recent past (use the left and right arrows or gray dots below to scroll through the experiences):

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  • Robert Sr. and Katrina

    – This is the family with four kids sleeping on hard wood floors with just towels and linens to comfort them.  Robert Jr., the young 11 year old that wrote the letter, simply asked for us to take him to Value City Furniture to get a bed.  We did much more.  We delivered one bed, have three on the way and provided many essentials for each of the four kids, including warm linens for each bed.

  • Sanford / White

    – Two years ago, Ernest Sanford wrote a letter asking simply for a computer for his kids, two of which were teenagers and struggling in school without one.  Their mom, Telitha, called me that year before we delivered the computer and other gifts because she thought Ernest was full of &%$@ that a) he wrote a letter and b) we answered it.  Since that time, Telitha has called me about every six months to keep me updated on her children.  Tierra was playing violin in her school recital, Carl and Jessie received nothing lower than a C on their report cards, Carl was the starting quarterback for his football team, etc.  Well, six months ago she called to tell me that Ernest (dad) was shot and killed in a mugging (I googled it and it is a true story).  I asked her to keep our number and if the holidays were going to be tough (which I assumed they would be as he was the “breadwinner”), to please get in touch with us.  This year we bought them a lot of items they really needed and spent almost an hour visiting with Telitha and family.

  • Latrice and Paris

    – Paris is ten and wrote a letter about how wonderful her mother is.  Well, we met her and we agree.  She’s a pretty good kid too it appears.  The story starts like too many others we see…young woman gets pregnant, dad deserts her, mom struggles to make ends meet, and the cycle is very hard to break.  A few years ago, Latrice decided this wasn’t good enough.  We see why – she appears smart, articulate and polite, as does Paris.  So she decided to accept an even harder struggle in the short term to benefit her family long term.  She cut her hours and went back to school.  She graduated recently from nursing school and, as soon as she passes her Boards, will be able to look for a career job for the first time in her life.  She has already asked if she can call us next year and help our cause.

  • Delores

    – Delores wrote a letter asking for some necessities for her four grandchildren whom she is in the process of gaining custody of.  When we dropped off the gifts, Delores explained that over two years ago she and her son were granted temporary custody of the kids as their mother was deemed unfit by the Courts.  Since that time, the mother had been on the run with the children (ages 3, 4, 6 and 7), in and out of shelters.  Delores and her son had been searching for the children for those long two years.  Each time they would get close, the children and their mother had fled just days, sometimes even hours, before.  Being on the run left them with nothing.  The children were found last month and are now in a stable environment.  They spent the holidays visiting family members they have not seen in two years.

  • Rae Ann

    – A 15 year old girl asks mom if she can write a letter to Santa. Mom says "Sure...but only if you write it for your cousins because you may think you have little, but they have less". Rae Ann (mom) got laid off from her job a couple years ago and went back to school, while working part time. She recently lost 3 close family/friends to violence and made the decision to move. In order to afford the rent, let alone the move, she took a second job - a small sacrifice to get her kids out of that neighborhood. Her sister (with the two kids that her daughter writes about) still lives in that neighborhood. Rae Ann helps her out – watches her kids (never at their house though, she can’t stand to go there), gives them clothes (gave her sister her only winter coat), and writes to Santa for her. This year, Rae Ann convinced 40 coworkers to pitch in $10 each and they bought gifts for a family from this very same Dear Santa program. This is a lady that needs every $10 she has, hell every $1 she has, and she not only gives her $10 away, but also gets 40 others to do so and make Christmas special for a family needier than hers.

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How it Works

Personal Communication

Our grass roots approach is what makes this program so intimate.  There Really Is A Santa Claus coordinates and manages all communication with the families.  We spend a significant amount of time ensuring we gather detailed information about the families, all of which is relayed to the donors.  Simple details such as a kids sizes, school uniform colors or whether or not they have boots that still fit from last year.  Through this process we also learn details such as the family needs toiletries, mom needs a bus pass to get to work or the teenage daughter cares for her baby sister every day after school. 

Select Letters

There Really Is A Santa Claus chooses families through “Dear Santa” letters.  Thousands of “Dear Santa” letters arrive at the Main Post Office each year and most go unanswered.  The selection process is one of the most significant activities we do, putting an inordinate amount of effort into selecting letters from only the most deserving families.

Contact Families

There Really Is A Santa Claus speaks with every chosen family and relays their stories to you.  We inform the families that we will be purchasing gifts for them and determine what their true needs and wants are.  We also use this opportunity to verify legitimacy.  During this process we typically learn so much more about them than their letters divulge, and we pass this information along to you.

Shop, Shop, Shop

We assign you a family member(s) for whom you will purchase gifts.  What specific gifts you purchase will be at your discretion – warm clothes, household essentials, toys, gift certificates, books, whatever you’re inspired to do.  And if donating money is what suits you best, we happily accept cash donations and you will still be assigned a child or family in need (one of our wonderful volunteer shoppers will purchase gift(s) on your behalf).

Wrapping Party

After the gifts are purchased, we take care of everything.  There Really Is A Santa Claus wraps, communicates with and personally delivers gifts to all families.  But we'll ask for your assistance if you're interested.  It's a fun few hours of manic-ness at Santa's workshop, but it gives donors an even greater appreciation for the efforts.

Deliver Gifts

The Directors deliver gifts to the recipient families.  And that is one more thing that makes our program so intimate…we get to literally shake the hand and personally hug the families we have collectively helped.  It never gets old seeing the joy on the families' faces and is a blessing to know we have made a difference in their lives.

About Us

History

There Really Is a Santa Claus provides an experience unlike any other.  Whereas many organizations have you donate a wrapped gift for an eight-year-old boy (for example), our organization tells you all aobut that eight-year-old boy - Chris is a huge Bulls fan, he loves to draw, he shares a bed with his brother, he needs a new toothbrush, etc.

In 2002

Our Board of Directors purchased gifts for our first Dear Santa family. The experience overwhelmed our conversations with family and friends that entire holiday season and the vision of There Really Is A Santa Claus began to take form.

In 2006

There Really Is A Santa Claus was officially incorporated as a 501(c)(3).

In 2008

The efforts of There Really Is A Santa Claus and our over 100 donors raised greater than $10,000 for Chicagoland families.

In 2011

Donations grew year-over-year by almost 50% to $17,500 and There Really Is A Santa Claus provided gifts to 35 Chicagoland families and organizations.

In 2012

There Really Is A Santa Claus celebrated its Tenth Anniversary with it's biggest year yet - $27,000, 40+ families assisted and a segment on CBS news.

In 2013

There Really Is A Santa Claus celebrates its biggest year yet - $42,500, 60+ families assisted and a segment on CBS news (for the second year in a row).

Christmas' Past

The results of your efforts:

The families we meet and stories we hear each year never cease to enlighten us.  And while all of this is nice, it pales in comparison to our thoughts of the smiles we never get to see when the kids open their gifts on Christmas morning. 
Click here to view families we have helped in recent years.

The Numbers

Board of Directors

Matt Beresh

Co-Founder and Director 
Corporate Executive, Mackinac Partners
Boutique financial advisory firm; 15 years experience managing multi-million dollar projects and businesses

Jennifer Jones

Co-Founder and Director 
Owner, Boot Camp with Jen
Outdoor fitness program with over ten years in business; Part time personal trainer, full time mother of two

Ashley Jones

Director 
Payroll Coordinator, Goodman Theatre
One of Chicago’s premier theaters; Not-for-profit experience

Get Involved

Donate

There are a variety of ways to give. Get involved and start making new holiday memories for yourself as well as our recipient families. 

Contact us to pledge an amount you’re willing to donate and get assigned a family member.  As little as $25 can buy a child a coat or a family a nice Christmas meal.

There Really Is a Santa Claus always needs volunteers to assist with shopping, wrapping and organizing. The way to really get involved is to come see Santa’s workshop in action.

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Important Dates

Deadlines for Christmas 2014 are as follows:

12/03                    Directors choose "Dear Santa" letters

12/03-12/09    Directors speak with each and every recipient family

12/10                      Assignments provided to donors

12/09-12/17       Donors shop

12/17                       Gifts dropped off to our headquarters in Bucktown (aka, the North Pole)

12/19-12/23     Gifts delivered to each recipient family

12/25                       The part we never see...Christmas morning!  Smiling faces as the families open gifts

Other Tips

Other ways to contribute this holiday season

Combine your efforts with family, friends or colleagues to collectively provide gifts for an entire recipient family.

Check with your employer and see if they offer a corporate matching program.  We are an Illinois-registered 501(c)(3) organization and can provide any necessary paperwork.

While There Really Is a Santa Claus only delivers gifts that are new, we will accept used “big ticket” items such as beds, cribs, TV’s, car seats and strollers.  We offer these items to families once we have spoken with them and understand their needs.

There Really Is a Santa Claus partners with other charitable organizations around the Chicagoland area, including:
Share Our Spare
ShoeHeals

Jump Right In

Excerpts from past letters

Below are letters from previous years.  These are NOT letters for 2012 that There Really Is A Santa Claus is responding to.  If you are interested in reading additional letters from prior years or in joining our efforts this year, please contact us.

"...found out that I have lung cancer – and I don’t know what to do.  I'm all the baby really have and I love them so.  O Santa, please help me to feed the baby again this year."

—Lola, grandmother 

"My dad lost his job and my mom is disabled and can’t really get around good.  We are all adopted and glad to be with them. I need to know that I will have a nice suit to wear on my special day in June."

—Marcus, 17 years old