A little girl from Auburn, Wash., had her Christmas wishes granted in an unexpected way.
Five-year-old Helen Berence Reyes Cardenas didn't ask for much. Her family, struggling, could not afford a real Christmas this year. She asked for a doll, clothes and shoes.
She put her Christmas list in a letter attached to two balloons and set it free in hopes of it reaching the North Pole. Little did she know her own personal Santa was waiting 676 miles away on a small ranch in Laytonville, Calif.
Julie Sanderson and her son were out on four wheelers when her son stopped to pick up a piece of paper. The letter was written in Spanish so they could only make out a few words. They knew it was a letter to Santa. A ranch hand translated the rest of note.
"The fact that she asked for a doll, some pants, boots and nothing materialistic, I just knew it was a family in need. I thought if I we can get a hold of them we can make sure there is something for her under the tree for Christmas," Julie Sanders told ABCNews.com.
They contacted the family and heard their heart wrenching story. Helen's mother is injured and her father has been unemployed for most of the year. The letter was sent on Dec. 2, an emotional day for Sanders. Her brother, who passed away a few years ago, was born that day.
Sanders went out the next day and bought the little girl a few outfits and toys. She addressed the package from Santa and sent it overnight so it could be under the girl's tree for Christmas.
Sanders' family friend, Dennis Dodds, was also there when the deflated balloon on the ranch. Dodds was astonished that the note made it that far, and he knew it was meant to come to them.
"Laytonville is a small timber industry town that has lost its mill. People here know what it is like to struggle around the holidays. It is always good to pay it forward," said Dodds.
"We've been in that situation ourselves, I know what it feels like," said Sanderson "but now we are in the position to help so it really felt good to help this little girl."
The girl's mother, Rosa Cardenas de Reyes, told the Associated Press that she helped send the note, because money was tight.
"I didn't know what to do," Cardenas de Reyes said. "So I always told her we would send a balloon to Santa because that was a tradition when I was little."