Some people prefer to do their good deeds anonymously, like the mysterious Secret Santa donor who has spread holiday cheer in the Idaho Falls area for the past seven years.
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There’s only one person who knows the identity of the individual wielding the checkbook, and it’s Nate Eaton, the news director for East Idaho News. And Nate isn’t telling.
“It’s one person,” Nate said. “It’s not a program. It’s not a corporation. It’s not like it’s trust fund or anything. It’s actually a living person who just enjoys giving his money away.”
Nate has become the face of this Secret Santa program. He works behind the scenes with the donor to sift through nominations and select the most worthy or in need recipients. Then he shows up at their doors with a news crew and captures their joyful reactions to being handed a check or gift card that’s usually worth thousands of dollars.
There are now hundreds of sweet videos of these Secret Santa gift deliveries, and they never fail to bring a smile to our faces. Nate estimates that he’s visited about 350,000 homes in the past seven years!
According to Nate, there’s one person who especially enjoys watching the reaction videos from home. The mysterious donor loves seeing people open their gifts and finds great joy in knowing how grateful they are for the help.
In 2013, the tradition started with a gift of $100,000. This year, the donor decided “there’s a lot of need” in their community due to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. So instead of the usual $100,000 donation, he decided to give away $1 million!
“I was shocked. I’ll be honest with you,” said Nate, who noted that the donor seems to be correct. They have received many more nominations this year than in previous years, which reflects the need many people are feeling.
Anyone in the East Idaho region can be nominated to receive a Secret Santa gift. Recently, Nate visited the home of Susan and Steve Andrews, a couple who have played Mr. and Mrs. Claus for the past 25 years to bring joy to children in their community. Last year, they had to stop the tradition due to the pandemic, and this year, Steve is fighting cancer. When Nate handed them each a check totaling $15,000, it seemed like a genuine Christmas miracle!
Nate said he is always happy when handing out checks, but he especially loves when people like Steve and Susan don’t recognize him.
“He had no clue who we were,” Nate recalled. “Those are the types that I love: when they don’t know who we are. Because if they know who we are, they know that they’re probably going to get a big gift. But [those who] have no clue who we are, it’s even better.”
We may not know the identity of this mysterious donor, but we are so grateful for the goodness they’re putting out in the world. There’s a good way to use money and a bad way – and this has to be the best way!
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