Stories That Make Us Believe in Santa Again

PHOTO: London Burleson is mesmerized by the snow. Paul Abell
London Burleson is mesmerized by the snow.

intro: Sometimes in the midst of crazy weather and frantic shopping, there are holiday moments that shine through and not only restore our faith in humanity but maybe even make us believe in Santa again. Here's a look at some of those moments.

quicklist: 1 title: Officers Save Christmas for Police Families in Need text: When an injured and struggling Pennsylvania police officer had to cancel Christmas with his family, his fellow officers decided to step in and help him, and the idea turned into a greater effort to help others.

"You know what, let's do Christmas for 10 kids of police officers killed or injured in the line of duty, or off-duty," Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Craig Polentold ABC' Philadelphia station WPVI-TV.

Polen used Facebook to get in touch with other officers willing to help, and on Sunday a group of them took the injured officer's wife and children on a shopping spree. They were given some money to shop for toys, and the rest went to help them pay their bills.

Polen said it felt "absolutely amazing" to help the families in need.

"If we don't take care of each other, nobody is going to," Polen told "We work a job where it's thanklness and it's hard to ask for help. Nobody wants to say, 'Hey, I need help.' We're supposed to help others."

The 10 children quickly became 23 children that law enforcement officials reached out to this season in places that included Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Texas, Florida and Illinois.

"It's great when you can help somebody who needs it and know that you've touched their kids' hearts and their hearts," Polen said. "If we can help each other out, we're in a better place."

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quicklist: 2 title: Rappelling Elves Delight Patients in Indiana Hospital text: Christmastime can still be magical in the hospital, which the patients of Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health learned when elves rappelled down the side of the 10-story building.

Dressed in pointy shoes and hats and decked out in red and green, the elves suddenly appeared outside patients' windows to wave and smile. Meanwhile, Santa himself made his way through the inside of the hospital to visit with patients and their families and give out gifts.

"Many of our patients can't be home for the holidays," Melissa Sexton, the hospital's special events coordinator, said in a statement. "Our goal is to bring children every ounce of normalcy possible while hospitalized."

See more from the day here.


quicklist: 3 title: Atlanta Children's Hospital Surprises Sick Kids With Snowfall text: Children's Healthcare of Atlanta wanted to bring the magic of the season to its sick children and families, so it created a winter wonderland of snow at all three of its hospitals all at the same time.

It was a tightly held secret: Only a handful of employees knew that the surprise event would happen.

At dusk on Dec. 2, it began to snow, and snow for an hour outside the hospital rooms where children were getting treated for cancer and waiting for heart transplants. Some were in the intensive care unit.

"What's more magical and childlike than snow -- especially in Atlanta?" asked a spokeswoman from Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.

It was a balmy 57-degree day, so dozens of these children, many in wheelchairs, hooked up to IVs and wearing surgical masks ventured out to just feel the white stuff.

Click here to see more photos from the magical day.

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quicklist: 4 title: WestJet Christmas Miracle text: As travelers at Toronto and Hamilton International Airports waited for their Calgary-bound flights, they were treated to a virtual Santa with whom they shared their holiday wishes.

Little did they know that more than 150 WestJet employees were also listening in on the other end of 19 hidden cameras at the airports.

After the travelers boarded their flights, the WestJet elves got to work to make those wishes come true, frantically rushing out to buy electronics, clothing and toys.

There was a young boy who asked for a "choo-choo train." His parents told Santa they wanted a big television.

Another boy asked for "an Android tablet." Then there was the practical passenger who told Santa, "What I need is new socks and underwear."

Little did the weary travelers know that their dreams were about to come true at Carousel 8. When the carousel buzzer went off, it wasn't luggage on the conveyor belt -- it was gifts with each person's name on it, from Santa.

The passengers cheered, hugged and shed a few tears.

One woman beamed when she found out her wish for a flight home for the holidays had come true, while another was moved to tears when she received a new camera.

And that practical passenger who asked for socks and underwear? He still looked pretty pleased with his gift, too.

Last year, the Canadian carrier also got in the holiday spirit by surprising passengers with a flash mob of singing and dancing elves.

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quicklist: 5 title: Salvation Army 'Secret Santa' Strikes Again With $50K Donation text: As harried shoppers were filing in and out of a Joplin, Mo., Walmart on Black Friday, at least one shopper stopped long enough to deliver a major surprise to the two Salvation Army kettle bell ringers standing guard outside.

As they counted their totals on Friday night, Salvation Army officials discovered that wrapped inside dollar bills were five checks of $10,000 each, adding up to a $50,000 donation for the local Joplin chapter.

"For us to have that kind of a bonus, a surprise sort of thing that you always hope for but can never count on, is really exciting," said Lt. Jamie Curry of the Salvation Army. "It puts us that much closer to reaching our goal and putting on more services for the community."

The person or persons behind the $50,000 donation remain anonymous, as she or he (or they) has been for the past decade. Salvation Army officials have nicknamed the anonymous donor(s) "Secret Santa" for the tradition of donating large sums in the kettle each Christmas season.

"It's never the same person and our bell ringers can't ever tell you who it was who put the money in because it's usually wrapped in bills," Curry said. "It's always wrapped in a way that we would know it was from 'Secret Santa.'"

Curry estimates the anonymous donor(s) has given at least $500,000 over the past approximately 10 years.

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quicklist: 6 title: Free Christmas Trees for People Who Need Them text: Volunteers in northern Colorado delivered 350 Christmas trees to families in need on Dec. 7, including 50 families that had been affected by this year's devastating floods.

The effort was led by the organization NOCO Shares, founded by local financial advisor, Ryan Behm.

"There's always a need in the community, but it seems as of late that the need has grown stronger," Behm told

The nearly 200 volunteers provided families with a freshly cut tree or an artificial one, if there are allergies in the family, as well as a tree stand, lights and decorations.

He said the families ranged from those with financial troubles to those who have been impacted by natural disasters. NOCO Shares works with 20 other agencies to find the families to help.

Behm said they hope that the money families save on the tree and everything that comes with it can help them do things like pay the heating bill, have a nicer Christmas dinner or buy a gift that they would've had to skip.

The organization and its volunteers are grateful for the opportunity to "at least brighten up a Christmas that would potentially be a bit dimmer," Behm said.

"Christmas is about happiness," he said. "Ultimately, that's what we're trying to accomplish, both for the recipients and also for the volunteers."

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