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.

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.