Image courtesy abcnews.go.com.
Five year old Helen Bernece Reyes Cardenas didn`t think she was going to get much for Christmas. Her father had been unemployed for most of 2011. Her mother had fallen down the stairs and hurt her knee, and now she couldn`t work. And her parents were raising her two cousins as well. Money was tight. And to top it all off, Helen was grieving the death of her brother whose birthday was that very day.
So on December 2, Helen followed her mother`s childhood tradition and wrote a letter to Santa, attaching it to two helium balloons, and letting it float into the sky, hoping it would reach the North Pole. However, the balloons did not head north out of the Seattle suburb, but south. The note travelled for thirteen days over 700 miles before it descended on Laytonville in Northern California. Julie Sanders was out riding with her son, Lane, who spotted the deflated balloons with the note attached. They could not read the note, however, because it was written in Spanish. So they turned it over to a ranch hand who translated its contents.
It turned out that Helen had simple requests: a doll, a teaset, pants and boots. Julie and Frank Sanders contacted the Cardenas family and learned more about their situation. The Sanders could empathize as they had experienced tough economic times being from a milltown whose mill had closed. They decided to pay it forward. Julie travelled over 50 miles to the nearest mall to purchase gifts for Helen, her two cousins and her mother. She wrapped them and signed them `Love, Santa`. Then she shipped them to Washington just in time for Christmas.
Yes, Helen, there is a Santa Claus.
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