Spotlights
Anonymous Santa and family share their holiday spirit with BCPS students and schools
12/18/2015

Spotlight

The wet and dreary Thursday that Lee Conner drove his pickup from Martin Boulevard Elementary School out to the Chesapeake Gateway Chamber of Commerce isn’t one he’ll soon forget. He knew it as soon as he strode into the chamber’s offices in White Marsh.

"I’m used to thinking of myself as a pretty tough guy," the burly Conner said, gazing wide-eyed at hallways and offices filled with bales of carefully-wrapped Christmas gifts, stuffed animals, a bicycle, and more.

"But this. . . ." His words caught. "This is really getting to me."

It was just the beginning for Conner, the parent service coordinator at Martin Boulevard, and scores of other BCPS educators and staff who found themselves transformed into Santa’s elves for the day. Later, Conner and the others would drop off the gifts at the homes of 59 students from schools across Baltimore County’s east side.

"I wish I’d had one of those Go-Pro cameras on my head when they opened the door and saw me," Conner said later. "To see these mothers and fathers just light up at the door was something. It got me a little bit choked up, too, to see them so amazed, so happy." 

And if Conner had recorded the moments with a camera, he knows what he would have done with the footage, too. He would have shown it to the anonymous Santa’s helpers – a Baltimore County businessman and his family – who for more than 10 years have worked through the Chamber and schools to fulfill wish lists for children across the east side.

"I can’t begin to tell you how much this means to these kids," Conner said. "We can’t thank him enough."

Earlier in the day, the donor arrived at the Chamber and worked quietly in the rain to unload huge bundles of hundreds of toys, books, clothes, and other requested items, all of them purchased and gift-wrapped by "a small army" of helpers and family members, he said.

"It’s just something we enjoy doing," he added.

"And they do it every year," said Sharon Kihn, the Chamber’s executive director. "It’s just an incredibly generous tradition to have, and it’s something we enjoy being able to facilitate."

Each fall, says Julie Gaynor, a BCPS employee and Chamber vice president, the family works with the Chamber and schools to identify children whose families would benefit from such support and obtain their wish lists from Santa. Gaynor reviews the lists and works with the donor and his wife to ensure that each gift will be just right.

"They are very precise," Gaynor says. "They want to make sure a doll’s skin tone is just right or that the book is the right one. It’s just amazing the work they put into doing this, but they love it."   

Gifts are divided by schools and picked up and delivered by school personnel like Conner. Deliveries are made during the school day; "we have to be very quiet about it," Conner said.

And as he loaded the last of half a dozen bulging bags into his truck, Conner continued to express his wonder at the operation. As a new Martin Boulevard employee, he hadn’t participated in the gift delivery before. "I didn’t think there would be so much. I’m completely amazed that anyone can do this.

"Hey," he said, grinning and ready to begin his deliveries, "I still believe in Santa Claus."

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