TOMAH, Wis. - "Are you ready to eat some spaghetti, buddy?" Marie Van Den Burg asked her 8-year-old son, Ethen.
She was making Christmas dinner for her family, stirring together ingredients from a food pantry.
She and her husband are going through a tough time right now. They've been worrying about Christmas for Ethen since Thanksgiving.
"I had asked him if there was anything that we could do to try and start saving. I have pawned a couple things to try to come up with money," said Van Den Burg.17897454
She had a gift card to Walmart. As she was checking out with a handful of small gifts for Ethen last week, she mentioned off-hand to the cashier she was worried about her son's Christmas.
"We'll just tell him that maybe Santa was a little poorer this year, and that maybe next year, he can get him a little bit more," said Van Den Burg.
"She was a nice lady, just down on luck," said the cashier, Judy Anderson, as tears welled in her eyes.
Anderson decided Santa could use a little help.
"How can a kid miss Christmas? You can't. You just can't," said Anderson.
With her holiday bonus, Anderson bought Ethen $100 worth of toys.
"I was overwhelmed with grief from not being able to pay for anything for my son for Christmas. And when she did this, I broke out in tears," said Van Den Burg.
"And I said, 'No, don't, because you'll make me cry too,'" said Anderson with a laugh.
For Ethen, Christmas was saved.
"She saved Santa. She saved Christmas for my 8-year-old son. She did," said Van Den Burg.
Van Den Burg said she's holding onto that Walmart receipt as a reminder that when the time comes, she'll pay it forward as someone else's Santa.
You never know where you're going to meet a Christmas angel, but you always know it when you do.
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