'Sincerely Santa' needs your help

1:42 PM, Nov 27, 2012   |    comments
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Tampa, Florida -- There are thousands of children who live in the Tampa Bay area who may have a different view of the holidays.

They hear stories of other children receiving gifts each year and wonder why they are being left out.

This is where programs like 'Sincerely Santa' come in, to make sure no child goes through the holidays without their wish lists answered.

"It's very enduring, their needs are so simple," said Debra Hoffman with Sincerely Santa.

The program has provided toys and clothing for kids in the Tampa Bay area since 1987.

This year, the program expects to serve 4,000-5,000 children.

See photos of a Sincerely Santa event at Robles Elementary

"We just think back and remember when we didn't have things. These kids, it's not their fault the conditions they live in, so we have to support them and help them as much as we can. Someone helped us, we have to help them," said Ricky Wade, a reserve officer with the Tampa Police Department.

Sincerely Santa is a unique program that not only works with the school district to identify the neediest students, it teams up with first responders in Hillsborough County so fire fighters and law enforcement officers can hand deliver the gifts to the children.

"Most of the families see us in a time of need, it's not under the best circumstances," said David Raasch, with Hillsborough County Fire Rescue. "We've got to pull together; we're a community, we live together. Let's pull together."

Each year, students in Hillsborough County write a letter to Santa and the schools identify the letters from the neediest students and pass them on to Sincerely Santa, which then posts the wish lists on giving trees. You can find one at Westfield Brandon near Dillard's.

Members of the community select a letter and fulfill that child's wish. The gifts are then passed out to the children at school by fire fighters and law enforcement.

It makes a difference and it's an experience a child does not forget.

Raash, who has worked with the program for 18 years, says he was recently stopped by a student at Armwood High School who received a gift while she was in elementary school from Sincerely Santa.

"Now that she's in high school, she was able to volunteer hours and give back,' said Raasch.

If you want to help, you can pull a letter from the Sincerely Santa tree at Westfield Brandon near Dillard's, or make a contribution to Sincerely Santa, Inc. 5802-A East Fowler Avenue, Suite 167, Tampa, FL 33617.

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