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Give like a small sun: touch the world with shafts of your light, bring smiles into bloom like flowers. --DailyGood Editors

A 13-yr-old Secret Santa

--by Derek P. Jensen, syndicated from , Dec 23, 2011

For the second straight Christmas, a philanthropist from Utah’s Capitol Hill has been warming the hearts of the homeless and brightening the smiles of hundreds of their children.

The benefactor works year-round raising money, networking with businesses, buying and wrapping gifts, and encouraging random residents to pitch in with presents the underprivileged kids otherwise would never see.

Jocelyn Hanrath, an adopted girl too humble to take any credit, is 13.

“What Jocelyn has done is just remarkable; it’s delightful,” says Bonnie Peters, executive director of Family Support Center, whose LifeStart Village in Midvale already has seen bulging bags of gifts dropped off by Salt Lake City’s secret Santa. “She gets joy from doing it. It’s not to feather her nest. It’s just to show people joy and that they are valued. That is powerful.”

Jocelyn, with help from her mother, April Hanrath, and donations from the community, will deliver Christmas to 138 people this holiday. Most are children and single mothers.

“I just think about Christmas Day, when all the kids open their presents and see that they actually got something,” Jocelyn says. “I just feel that I was happy to help. When the moms get what they want, I just feel really happy inside.”

Last year, the Capitol Hill teen organized a similar gift drop at LifeStart Village for 117 people.

So how did it all start?

Jocelyn and her mom got a call from Peters, who years earlier served as April Hanrath’s adoption coordinator, saying her Sub-for-Santa collection could use diapers for a single mom with a baby.

“Jocelyn said, ‘Babies don’t get diapers for Christmas, they get toys,’ ” April Hanrath remembers. “She said, ‘You go buy diapers, I’m buying toys. Kids know what kids need.’ ”

April, herself a single mother with a second adopted son, thought after five or 10 gifts, “we’d be done.”

“But, no, it’s all or nothing for Jocey. “We don’t even have a Christmas tree up. We have bikes and scooters and bags of stuff. She collects stuff all year-round and rat-holes it away until Christmas.”

Jocelyn stockpiles used bicycles and then has them repaired. She works odd jobs from baby-sitting to cleaning houses and pulling weeds to earn cash for toy shopping. All this while soaring on the honor roll at the Salt Lake Arts Academy and as goalkeeper for the traveling La Roca Premier soccer team, an Olympic developmental club.

“I always thought that, if we didn’t do it, who will?” she says about the charitable work.

Her most satisfying moments: getting the January letter saying the LifeStart kids are happy, and, “mostly delivering the toys.”

Peters says the kids, of course, are thrilled, but when the mothers see their gifts as well, “many, many tears flow.”

“April’s always had a big heart, but you have constraints when you’re a single mother. She talked to Jocelyn, and Jocelyn just took over. I guess I’d call it viral,” Peters says. “It’s just unbelievable that you’ve had this young woman able to do this and now you have people who want to pay it forward.”

And then some.

Jocelyn’s giving tree, which she negotiated to be on display with Red Moose Coffee Co. on the corner of 1700 South and 900 East, has been a hit. The tree sports white tags with the names of homeless families and their three-item wish lists.

Residents have responded in force, supplying loads of gifts that April and Jocelyn deliver nearly daily.

Real Salt Lake’s Will Johnson assisted with RSL gear for a 17-year-old fan who needed clothes.

Next year and beyond, Jocelyn has visions of expanding her Christmas enterprise into an official charity, complete with a child-led board of directors. Her goal is to introduce more kids to the idea of giving and to generate still more presents.

“She’s a very industrious little girl,” shrugs April Hanrath. “She does whatever she can.”

That includes delivering the gifts in secret to maintain the magic of Santa.

“I decided every kid should get two or three presents,” Jocelyn announces with a matter-of-fact tone easily suited for a boardroom. “I’m going to try to do it every year.”

Christmastime at LifeStart Village, there is a community of believers. 

This article was originally published in the Salt Lake Tribune and is reprinted here with permission from the author, Derek P. Jensen, who can be reached by email: djensen (at) sltrib.com


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