EAST MANATEE -- With a bit of the mystery and magic of Santa Claus, an anonymous donor made Christmas a lot brighter for 40 Manatee County families with a gift of $10,000.
The gift is from a Manatee County resident, "who has been blessed and understands that as a community we are here to help one another," said Joy Mahler, president and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sun Coast.
"He believes the focus shouldn't be on him, and that the gift should be without personal recognition or gain," Mahler said.
The families each received $250 for a shopping spree
from 3-7 p.m. Wednesday at Walmart, 5810 Ranch Lake Blvd.
It is the third year in a row the donor provided a $10,000 gift, Mahler said.
Some families shopped with children, and some without. Each had favorites on their list.
Levi Martinez, 18, of Palmetto, shopped with his mom, Maria Salazar, and wanted clothing most of all, for his brothers and sisters, and his niece.
John Videau shopped with his son, Alex, 13.
"I am so grateful," Videau said. "He has a big heart, whoever it is." Alex, looking for a Captain America knit hat and a horror movie, added: "I think it's really nice."
Binta Sall, 10, came with her grandmother, Luretha Averett, and wanted an XBox 360 Connect. Binta was thrilled when the Walmart staff found one in the back room of the store,
Binta said she wants to grow up to be a nurse helping people prepare for surgery.
Each of the families wrote a heartfelt thank you note.
One read: "I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. You have brought Christmas joy this year."
James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee reporter, can be contacted at 941-745-7053 or on Twitter: jajones1.