By Alexandra Pecci
---- — The teen girl who wants nothing more for Christmas than for her little sister to get a few gifts.
The single mom who regularly loses jobs because of her son’s chronic illness and frequent trips to the emergency room.
The bus driver who not only transports children with disabilities to school each morning, but also wishes for a remote control car so her wheelchair-bound son with multiple sclerosis can have something to play with on Christmas morning.
These are just three of many thousands of people that The Eagle-Tribune Santa Fund has helped over the years. Now kicking off its 88th season, the Santa Fund is a tradition in the Merrimack Valley for so many families who are happy to give donations, large and small, to help their neighbors at the holidays.
“The Santa Fund is one way that our newspaper company can give back to the community,” said Karen Andreas, publisher of The Eagle Tribune and North of Boston Media Group. “This great charity has a 90-year history of helping families in need during the holidays.”
Andreas noted that last year alone, the Santa Fund helped more than 3,800 people in the Merrimack Valley.
“Our goal this year is to raise $150,000,” Andreas said. “And given the outpouring of support in the past, I really believe this is possible.”
The Santa Fund, which is managed by the Salvation Army, helps families buy holiday gifts for children and put a nutritious meal on the table.
Donations come from adults and children, businesses and school groups, in amounts ranging from a few dollars that have been scraped together or hundreds of dollars from generous individuals and companies that sometimes take on the Santa Fund as a holiday project.
Donors can leave online messages and scrolling through them at EagleTribune.com/santafund is as heartwarming as it is inspiring. Families give to carry on decades-old traditions, to honor lost loved ones, or to simply say thanks for the gifts they’ve received in life.
Whether the donor is a little boy breaking open his piggy bank or a corporation making a large annual contribution, every little bit helps. In 2012, the Santa Fund raised $131,200 for 1,800 families throughout the Merrimack Valley.
HOW TO GIVE TO THE SANTA FUND To donate securely online, please visit eagletribune.com/santafund/donate. Learn more at email@example.com or 978-946-2241. Haverhill girls swim for the Santa Fund In what has become an annual event, the Haverhill High Girls Swim Team held a swim-a-thon in November to raise money for the Santa Fund. This was the 16th year that the Hillies girls gave $1,000 to the charity that helps families in need during the holiday season. Each team member swims for nearly two hours straight, raising money from people who have pledged to support their swim. One thousand dollars from the fundraiser is donated to the Santa Fund and any additional funds benefit the team. "I think its very positive for our athletes to make an impact on our community," said Coach Rick Battisini. "This great way to do that." This year, not even the SATs could stand in the way of the team's efforts. Most girls did the swim on Nov. 2, but some had to reschedule because they were taking the college admission test that morning. "Overall this is such a great group," said Karen May, a boosters mother. "They always want to try to do something outside the box to help people. They really enjoy doing this." -- By Kelly Burch, staff writer