A Facebook post from an Irving Park woman has gained attention after she announced a Santa Claus photo op and Christmas toy drive from her front yard next weekend.
In the Irving Park Neighborhood News Facebook group, Julie Weber said Santa will arrive at her house Dec. 12 to meet with neighborhood kids starting at 1 p.m. in the 3800 block of Sacramento.
"Santa will have stockings filled with toys and candy as well as new/gently used toys for the kids in our area that need a little extra holiday cheer this year . We have a big sleigh out front for pictures. Santa will be waving from the porch," the Facebook post read.
Weber said the thought of the many children, including her own three, who cannot see Santa this holiday season prompted her to build the sleigh and assemble all the decorations in her front yard.
"I think 2020 being what it is started the ball rolling on going absolutely nuts for Christmas this year," Weber said. "I thought of all the other kids who wouldn’t be able to see Santa either and then to the ones whose parents are struggling and might not even be able to afford gifts."
Her family has a Santa costume from former Christmas parties with a teen mom's group, which she said "needed to be put to some good use." Weber said initially she wanted to be Santa, but felt she was better suited to organize the whole experience.
She said her thought begun with just having candy canes, but she then bought 100 stockings and filled them with toys and candy.
"It was then that I overheard one of the kids from one of my children’s remote learning classes mention not getting a birthday present this year because their parents had lost their jobs and my heart just broke- this is happening right in my neighborhood, at our school- that’s when I started reaching out to my mommy network at my kids’ school and the response was amazing!" Weber said.
Hundreds have reacted to the post and comments have already filled offering toy donations and asking for ways to help spread the holiday spirit -- so many responses that Weber said she "couldn't keep up."
"My heart is just so full! So many people wanting to help and get involved. My goal was to try and spread some extra Christmas cheer to my neighbors but they’ve brought more to me than I ever would have thought!" Weber said.
When asked why she's doing this, Weber responded that she loves to see the joy on people's faces and that she knows people have a responsibility to help others after being "so blessed."
"My message to others is that there are so many ways to help people and bring joy in these hard times. I was able to find people in my neighborhood through our school- they know every child and their situation- and for the people that need help, don’t be afraid to ask. There are SO many people out there that are able and willing to be there for you!" she said.
The tradition may continue, as Weber said it would be wonderful to do for years to come.