“Secret Sandy” Gives Local Kids Hope for Holidays

The local program connects donors with children and families hit hard by Sandy

Among all the FEMA forms and insurance letters Sandy victims will draft this holiday season, only one document offers a direct line to Santa: the Secret Sandy list.

The Secret Sandy program lets children and parents hit hard by the storm post their Christmas lists so donors can help out. The project is the vision of two friends, Joy Huang and Kimberly Berdy, who decided in the weeks after the storm to become part-time elves to try and answer Sandy victims' wishes.

"We volunteered during the storm and were inspired by all of the support. These families had a lot of love leading up to and during Thanksgiving. We wanted to make sure it continued through Christmas," said Huang, a freelance producer.

Launched last month, Secret Sandy began with fliers handed out at disaster relief tents. Soon afterward, Huang developed SecretSandy.org to anonymously connect hard-hit families with donors. Huang and Berdy work out the delivery -- all victims have to do is fill out a questionnaire.

"We get a lot of kids asking for dolls and Legos. One child said that both his home and Legos were washed away during the storm. We can't get him a home, but we will get those Legos," said Huang.

Beyond toys, Secret Sandy has become a forum for children to open up about their fears and concerns following the storm. The online questionnaire takes children through a series of fill-in-the-blank questions like "When we were hit by Hurricane Sandy, I was ______." "I hope that I'm soon able to______."

Many children hope to see their parents happy again, according to Huang.

"We've received a number of letters where children hope their parents stop crying," she said.

More than 500 kids and their parents have submitted Christmas lists, and more than 1,000 people from all over the world have donated everything from gift cards to books.

Children who have already received their presents have taken to Secret Sandy's Facebook page to say thank you. Many of these children will face months of uncertainty ahead, but Huang says Secret Sandy is a reminder that even a hurricane can't stop Santa.

"We want these children to know that they have not been forgotten. They are all still in our thoughts," said Huang.

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