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'Secret Santa' program pays off for Mt. Pleasant family

| Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014, 9:01 p.m.
Kelly Vernon | The Mt. Pleasant Journal
Emily Hesse's 6-year-old son, Kaiden Kucera, enjoys his new sled recently in Mt. Pleasant. The sled was provided to Kaiden via the 'Secret Santa' program held in conjunction with the local KMart store. Photo taken in December 2013

Emily Hesse of Mt. Pleasant said she was in shock when a clerk at the local Kmart store called her in the weeks leading up to Christmas to tell her that a donor taking part in the “Secret Santa” program paid for gifts she had placed on lay away for her family.

“I still cannot believe that something like this happened to me. It was the biggest Christmas miracle I could ever ask for,” Hesse said.

Hesse said she had no idea people did things like that.

In return, she said, she will make it a priority to remember the act of kindness, pay it forward and be thankful for it every day.

She said she trusted in God to help her pay her December bills and still give her 6-year-old son, Kaiden Kucera, and her family a good Christmas.

Hesse said she was brought to tears after the phone call and the generosity of a stranger.

Kmart assistant manager Janie Wesling said several individuals donated more than $1,000 to cover 12 different gift layaways this year.

Wesling explained when a person wants to pay for someone's layaway, the manager chooses layaways with children's items first.

If a program donor wishes to contribute more than enough money to pay for any particular layaway, the remainder of the money is applied to another one, Wesling said.

Kmart layaway official Brenda Ansell said some program donors return every year to help brighten a stranger's holiday, while many new individuals contribute every year. Ansell added that most people cry tears of joy when she calls to tell them that a random stranger paid off their layaway.

“It's touching to see people help others in need. It's an amazing feeling when someone comes into the store to pay for another person's layaway,” Ansell said.

Hesse said she would like her “Secret Santa” to know what a magical Christmas blessing his or her gesture proved to be for her family and how much she appreciates it.

Kelly Vernon is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. She can be reached at or 724-547-5722.