Decades later, they’re still grateful
But decades later, those adults who were Globe Santa the recipients as children remain deeply grateful to the Globe Santa program and say it has profoundly shaped their lives. “It is my duty, whenever possible, to give back to the community,” said Nhu Vu of Newton. “I tell my boys that the way they live life is not everyone’s.”
When he was 11, Lenny Clarke’s mother tearfully told her eight children that there would be no presents on Christmas because their father was too sick to work. Clarke’s older sister secretly wrote Globe Santa, and he gave birth. Ten boxes full of toys showed up on their Cambridge porch, including a fire engine and a fire helmet for Lenny.
“It was the greatest Christmas of my life,” said Clarke, now 68, a stand-up comedian and regular on late-night talk shows. “I will never forget what they did for us – never, ever, ever.”
When her father died, she was 5, the youngest of six, and a dark Christmas was looming for them in South Boston. “It was all [my mother] could do to put food on the table, ”said Wheeler, now in his 50s. She still doesn’t know who alerted Globe Santa, but a huge box arrived, filled with gifts, including red children’s suitcases for Wheeler.
“It was the best thing ever,” said Wheeler, who works in corporate communications, and it taught him a life lesson. “Being charitable feeds my soul, and that started the year Globe Santa helped us.”
Long Tong’s parents moved from Hong Kong in the 1980s, and having a festive Christmas with seven children in a South Boston apartment was no small feat. But Globe Santa delivered a brown paper-wrapped box full of toys, and the box alone was a gift.
“Just seeing this box gave us a feeling of normalcy, a little bit of happiness, an extra level of joy that we wouldn’t have had otherwise,” said Tong, 33, an accountant who lives in Roslindale.
His parents fled Vietnam after the war, reinventing their life in Boston, with no money for luxuries like Christmas presents. But they contacted Globe Santa, and a box came “with a whole bunch of stuff that was just right for us, like a paint kit and coloring books!” said Vu, 42, who lives in Newton and works in software sales. Now he has two sons of his own.
“My wife and I try to instill a sense of gratitude in them,” he said. “There are all kinds of circumstances that people cannot control and it is our duty to help them overcome them. “
She was 7 years old in 1956 when she and her mother left Italy and moved to Boston’s North End. His father worked in Argentina. Her mother worked seven days a week, leaving her in the care of the Sisters of Saint Joseph at St. John School who told her about a new organization that was helping families at Christmas. She was still learning English, but wrote a letter to Globe Santa and he brought her books, toys, games, even a cuddly brown teddy bear. “My name was on the box,” said Cornelio, 72, who owns a travel agency in Medford and has helped raise thousands of dollars for Globe Santa through the Medford Kiwanis Club. “That in itself was special. “
– LINDA MATCHAN
Linda can be reached at [email protected]