A little girl once wrote to a newspaper editor to ask him a simple question.
Her letter was sent to The Sun in New York City – a prominent publication in its day that carried a lot of weight with readers. In her missive, the 8-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon asked a simple but direct question – does Santa Claus really exist?
Most if not all of you probably know this heartwarming story and are well aware of how editor Francis Pharcellus Church responded to young O’Hanlon’s letter. His editorial is one of the most famous ever written and is the most reprinted in the English language.
It’s been 121 years since Church took pen to paper to answer O’Hanlon’s question. But to this day, we still get goosebumps when we read it, especially these words: “Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy… Thank God he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.”
We know that Church was talking about the true meaning of Santa Claus. And were he alive today, we have no doubt he write a similar piece about that same wonderful spirit that’s alive and well in The Villages and the surrounding communities.
Yes, dear readers, Santa Claus is, indeed, alive and well here. He’s there when someone is down on their luck. He’s there to pick up a sick neighbor or offer comfort and help when someone loses a loved one. And he never hesitates to come out in full force to make sure that children across the local area have a wonderful Christmas – regardless of what it costs or how much work it takes.
We think that’s pretty special. And in case you aren’t aware of the many great ways Santa has helped out this year, we’ll offer just a few examples:
- Classic car buffs kicked it all off with the annual Christmas in July Cruise In at Spanish Springs Town Square. They got into the holiday spirit by donating money and bringing toys for children that would be distributed by the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office.
- The Girl Scout Alumnae Silver Trefoil Group of The Villages kicked off its 10th annual Pajama and Book Drive this past October. Through donation boxes placed at all Villages recreation centers, the group collected pajamas and books to distribute to the more than 6,000 homeless children in Lake, Marion and Sumter counties.
- Sheriff’s deputies and police officers from across the tri-county area participated in Shop With a Cop and Kids, Cops & Christmas, which meant that families needing assistance purchasing presents were assured that their children would have a wonderful holiday season.
- Deputies and police officers took part in Christmas parades throughout the region, stopping to spend time with children who attended the events. And the Leesburg Police Department put on a highly successful bike and gift giveaway that benefited close to 100 beaming children.
- Villagers belonging to the Mustang Club, the Vintage Car Club and the Yesteryear Kart Club donated toys and money to benefit the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office’s Kid’s, Cops & Christmas program.
- Members of the Sumter Landing Bicycle Club, the Florida PANTHERS Tandem Club and The Village Bicycle Club joined with the Wildwood Police Department and Wildwood Elementary School to organize a giveaway of about 30 children’s bikes.
- Residents of the Village of Sunbury at Glenbrook presented a check to Sumter County Sheriff’s Lt. Robert Siemer for $13,500 to support Kids, Cops and Christmas.
- Area residents donated Christmas decorations – everything from trees to nativity scenes to ornaments – to the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office to help brighten the holidays for families in need.
- Residents turned out to support the Sumter County sheriff’s Kids, Cops & Christmas program through Villagers San and Nadine Landis’ annual “Dance the Night Away” program at Lake Miona Recreation Center. The event saw Lt. Robert Siemer and Detective Shannon Hart hold a friendly competition for dance partners that raised a whopping $800 in donations.
- Members of Rotary Club of The Villages – Evening made sure that Santa Claus visited 110 kindergarteners at Harbour View Elementary School in Summerfield. Rotarians provided photos for parents from the monumental event. And the club even took care of the main course and desserts for the staff party at the school.
- Members of the Col. Phillip C. DeLong Detachment of the Marine Corps League tackled Toys for Tots with gusto and made a difference for many children this holiday season.
We’d also like to offer a huge word of thanks to Villagers for stepping up to help a couple of kids who are facing some tough health issues. These two young people are near and dear to us, so it is with a warm heart that we share the latest on them.
In November we told you about a Belleview teenager, Cole Tumey, who is in desperate need of a kidney. After the story was published, Cole’s mom, Leona Yawn, received some interest from area residents seeking to find out if they would be a match.
Our fingers are crossed and we pray every day that the always-smiling honor student who attends Village View Christian Academy will get the kidney he needs very soon and be able to move forward with his life in good health.
There’s also Wildwood Elementary School student Abigail “Abby” Lacayo. If you want to believe in Christmas miracles, read our past stories about this amazing 9-year-old honor student who has faced more adversity with a smile on her beautiful face than most of us can comprehend.
Abby suffered from Hereditary Chronic Pancreatitis and Gastro Paresis and had been in pain for a long time when she underwent a complicated surgery recently at the University of Minnesota’s Masonic Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis.
On Dec. 12, a team of highly specialized surgeons removed Abby’s pancreas, spleen and gallbladder, while also transplanting islet cells into her liver. She faces a long road to complete recovery. But if things go right over the weekend, she’ll spend Christmas Day with Mom Gina and Dad Denis in a Ronald McDonald House where the family received free lodging for the six to 12 weeks Abby will need to recover.
We’re quite happy to tell you that area residents certainly haven’t forgotten Abby. In fact, she’s received so many Christmas cards, letters and packages that the hospital staff refers to her as “the little celebrity.”
Before Abby left for Minnesota, she received some much-needed assistance from the very generous members of the Amigo Sports Club. Thanks to the $1,600 the club raised through its Adopt-A-Family program, the youngster headed north with several new items, including an iPad, two years of AppleCare warranty; a case and screen protector; ear buds; a power adapter, station and cord; a $200 iTunes gift certificate to purchase books; a $200 gasoline gift certificate for the four-day car trip; a $200 Amazon gift certificate for miscellaneous expenses; and $100 in McDonald’s gift certificates for food along the way.
As many of you know, there’s one person who has been in Abby’s court for a quite a long time. And trust us when we tell you that she has done more than any of us know to help the amazing young girl who hopes to become a doctor someday.
Villager Faye Scher, a volunteer at Abby’s school, has done everything from creating a GoFundMe account (click HERE to donate) to providing winter coats for the frigid Minnesota weather to delivering gift baskets to spending quality time with Abby and Gina while showing them what the love of a true friend is all about. And she’s encouraging everyone to send cards to Abby Lacayo c/o Ronald McDonald House, 621 Oak Street SE, Room No. 311, Minneapolis, MN 55414.
In our book, Faye (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a pretty special person. And when we think about the true meaning of Christmas and Santa Claus, the smiling face of the generous Village of Gilchrist resident quickly comes to mind.
As you enjoy opening packages and spending time with family and friends on Christmas morning, please take a moment and remember everyone we mentioned above. Please offer a big “thank you” to anyone else you know who has helped others this holiday season. And please know that even though we couldn’t mention everybody in the local area who has helped somebody this holiday season, their efforts truly are appreciated as well.
So as we all await a visit from Jolly Old Saint Nicholas, we at Villages-News.com would like to wish each of you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!