The holidays bring forth a certain type of magic. There’s a feeling of happiness and cheer in the air. If you listen closely you just might hear an angel get its wings. But, for many Central Indiana families, Christmas wish lists are just that – wishes. Miracles don’t happen often, and basic needs like a warm meal, personal hygiene items and even toys go unfulfilled.


Last year Anita Johnson, special education teacher at the Indiana Math & Science Academy, was asked by a parent about United Christmas Service (UCS), a United Way of Central Indiana program that provides families in need with assistance during the holidays. The school had not yet partnered with United Christmas Service because they were missing one crucial piece of the puzzle – a dedicated employee volunteer.


Although it would mean extra time and work for her, Anita wasted no time at all stepping up to the plate to complete her training.


“I said yes because there is a legitimate need at my school. I genuinely want to help others, and this program allows me to do just that,” Anita says.


Soon after applications began rolling in for families in need, Anita found one donor who was interested in doing more. Though he prefers to remain anonymous, the Indiana Math & Science Academy “Secret Santa” has pitched in year-round. After sponsoring multiple families last year, he asked Anita to keep an eye out for a way to make a bigger impact.


A few months later, crisis hit Anita’s school. A student came into her office in a panic; her mother, who was in a fierce battle with drug addiction, had kicked her out of the house and wouldn’t allow her to even get any of her clothes. Anita knew just who to call in that moment.


“I thought of him because of his genuine and giving spirit,” she remembers.


So, Anita called “Secret Santa” and he instantly offered to help.


“He is just a remarkable man with such a big heart. He thanks me every time I call him for help, which baffles me!” Anita shares.


The pair connected with the student and headed to a local Walmart to purchase a few essentials. But his generosity doesn’t stop there.


From a family whose house burnt down and lost everything to a mother of three who lost her job due to a car accident, “Secret Santa” has stepped in to help every time he was called.


“The original St. Nicholas gave in secret, ‘When you give to the needy don’t announce it to be honored by people,” said our “Secret Santa.”


Anita and the families at Indiana Math and Science Academy could not be more grateful.


“He is genuine and never asks for anything back. I’ve never met anyone like him in my life and I feel personally blessed to have met him,” Anita shares.


Thanks to a connection made through United Christmas Service, there’s a little more holiday cheer in the air, even when it’s no longer December.


It’s that time again, folks. On the eighth Day of Giving, United Way gave to me … eight Santa hats, seven Honda engines, six ways to support United Way, five volunteer hours, four Christmas ornaments, three Merry Money vouchers, two cheerful bothers, and one way to help my community.

Consider a gift to United Christmas Service and bring some holiday magic to a neighbor in need.