(Photo: Allison Joyce, Getty Images)
The trend began last year. This season, says Toys R Us spokeswoman Katie Reczek, about 600 layaway orders at its stores have been settled by mystery benefactors. The company donates $200 worth of toys to Toys for Tots for each act of kindness.
Sara Knapp of Stratford, Wis., got a call from a Walmart store last week telling her that the remaining $100 on her layaway had been paid. "I cried," she says. Toys, cartoon DVDs and slippers for five children are wrapped for Christmas.
On Wednesday, a donor paid off 32 layaway accounts that totaled $2,700 at a Clovis, Calif., Kmart, says manager Michael Lee. In all, about $9,300 has been donated anonymously, he says. The givers "are just happy to make somebody's Christmas great," Lee says.
Lisa Dietlin, a Chicago philanthropic adviser and author, says many Americans "are turning away from the traditional commercialism of the holidays," especially since the Newtown, Conn., school shootings, and are "instead asking, 'How can I help those in need?'"
Most donors ask store personnel to identify accounts that include toys and other children's items. They aren't told recipients' names.
Wal-Mart says layaway angels have visited stores from California to South Carolina, making donations from $40 to $27,000.
A man donated $1,300 to a Hanover, Mass., Walmart, says assistant store manager Sean Taylor. His generosity helped a customer who had canceled the purchase of a bicycle for her daughter because she couldn't afford it. When Taylor called the woman, he says, "at first she thought I was joking."
Kelly Pike, who works for a Tulsa, Okla., manufacturer whose owner wants to remain anonymous, paid off layaway accounts totaling $5,000 at a Kmart and another $5,000 at a Walmart store. Her boss, she says, "just doesn't want any child to hurt for anything at Christmas."
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