There are at least two Utah County families that can hardly wait for Christmas Eve to arrive.
That night, one of these families will load the trunk of their car with gifts thoughtfully chosen and gaily wrapped. The father will don a Santa suit and a beard, and then the family will travel to the house of the second family.Once there, Santa will rap sharply on the door, and the mother of the second family will rouse her children from their sleep: "He's here," she may say, "he's here."
For these two families, Christmas Eve will be magical.
It has been four years since the first family began participating in the Sub-for-Santa program sponsored by United Way of Provo.
"I love it. I can't work with somebody one on one, but this way I can do something and usually remain anonymous," Joanne said. "I'm not wealthy, but I'm certainly not hurting. All I know is I'm helping someone, and I'm getting a big kick out of it all year long."
Although Joanne does not know who she will be providing Christmas for until November or December, she buys toys, with advice from her own children, and gifts throughout the year.
"I know I can't take care of a lot of people, but I can take care of one little family," Joanne said. "People don't think about it (helping others) until they hear about someone else doing something. That's how I got started: reading through the paper and bawling."
Joanne appreciates United Way's coordination of the program.
"I like going through United Way because I don't have to try to find someone (a family) myself, and I know they have been screened and actually need help," Joanne said.
Once you get started in the program, it is hard to quit, Joanne said.
First of all, there is the warm feeling Joanne and her family have all year long, knowing what they have to look forward to on Christmas Eve. Then there are the memories - the teenage girls that first year, who believed their mother had bought the gifts and arranged for Santa to deliver them, and kept telling the mother how neat she was and how much they loved her; of the year a 9-year-old boy grabbed Santa and wouldn't let go - "there really is a Santa," he kept exclaiming.
"These kids have never known their family is in a financial problem," Joanne said. "These are kids whose parents are sick or out of work. We (society) create this thing about Santa, that he is magical, and then we take it away. It's not fair. Kids think Santa doesn't need money; he makes all this stuff, he doesn't have to buy it at Lionel Playworld."