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 2016 giving season was a fantastic success in a myriad of ways. Let alone providing approximately $50,000 worth of gifts to 40 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 several years ago, CBS requested this year to film the chaos that is Santa’s workshop. The coverage has helped broaden our 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):
How it Works
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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 about 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.
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.
There Really Is A Santa Claus was officially incorporated as a 501(c)(3).
The efforts of There Really Is A Santa Claus and our over 100 donors raised greater than $10,000 for Chicagoland families.
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.
There Really Is A Santa Claus celebrates its biggest year yet - over $50,000 raised, 50 families assisted and segments on NBC5, ABC7 (streaming on Taxi TV) and CBS2 news (for the third year in a row).
Another spectacular year…raising over $45,000 for the third year in a row, and creating memories for hundreds of recipient family members and donors alike.
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.
Board of Directors
Co-Founder and Director
Corporate Executive, Mackinac Partners
Boutique financial advisory firm; 15 years experience managing multi-million dollar projects and businesses
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
Payroll Coordinator, Goodman Theatre
One of Chicago’s premier theaters; Not-for-profit experience
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.
Deadlines for Christmas 2017 will be forthcoming as the season nears. As an example of the tight timeframe we operate under, deadlines for Christmas 2016 were as follows:
12/06 Directors choose "Dear Santa" letters
12/06-12/12 Directors speak with each and every recipient family
12/12 Assignments provided to donors
12/12-12/19 Donors shop
12/19 Gifts dropped off to our headquarters in Bucktown (aka, the North Pole)
12/20-12/23 Gifts delivered to each recipient family
12/25 The part we never see...Christmas morning! Smiling faces as the families open gifts
Other 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.
Jump Right In
Excerpts from past letters
Below are letters from previous years. These are NOT letters for 2016 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."
"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