AUBURN, Wash. -- Children across Western Washington expect a visit from Santa Claus on Christmas Eve, but 37 years ago, one group of volunteers realized that hundreds of children may feel forgotten.
The Forgotten Children's Fund started in 1976 when a Seattle restaurant accidentally received a letter from a child in need. In the note to Santa, he wrote that his mother explained that they never received any gifts because Santa got lost.
That began many years of surprise Santa visits thanks to hundreds of generous volunteers and donors, helping kids like the Clark family in Auburn.
Steven Clark, 5, and his little sister Kaiya, 4, had no doubt that Santa was on his way Tuesday.
"For all the children," Steven said.
"And for all the grown-ups," Kaiya added.
It's their mom, Tasha, and grandmom, Brenda, who almost gave up hope.
"By the time we're done with bills and necessities, there's barely enough left to put gas in the car," Tasha said.
After 13 years of battling a near-lethal brain condition, Tasha is blind. Due to mounting medical bills and her inability to work, life has grown too expensive for Christmas.
"We'd have to split it apart and make two presents out of one present," Brenda said.
So the two grown-ups wrote a letter to Santa - all 29 of them.
"This is the best Christmas day I've ever ever spent," said Tony Zimmerman.
Zimmerman volunteers every year with the Forgotten Children's Fund.
"Children who don't get Christmas, Santa forgot. We're filling that need," explained Doug Moeller.
In just the southern half of the day's operation, 29 santas and 250 elves filled 29 trucks headed for dozens of families across Puget Sound.
Altogether, the Forgotten Children's Fund delivered 14,862 gifts this Christmas.
"It's just so rewarding to bring Christmas to kids that don't have it otherwise," Zimmerman said.
The Forgotten Children's Fund gets a thousand letters a year, including the one sent by the Clark family.
"This is a little bit of a miracle we have every year," Moeller said. "We try to help folks who are trying to help themselves."
Even though the Santas don't drive sleds, and come in the middle of the day, Steven and Kaiya didn't seem to care much when Zimmerman knocked on their door.
"Santa Claus!" they screamed.
Elves stacked presents under the tree while Santa handed everyone an early gift to open.
"God bless all of you," Tasha said. "I love how happy they were when they got to meet Santa."
Their mom may be surprised her letter actually worked, but Kaiya and Steven expected Santa's visit. Even though life's changed for them, Santa's stayed exactly the same thanks to the generosity of others.
"He knows when you've been bad or good so be good for goodness sake!" Steven sang.