DENVER -- It's the season of giving, and that's exactly what an anonymous Denver man is doing this week. He's handing out roughly $25,000 of his own money, $100 at a time, to total strangers at thrift stores, laundromats and fast food restaurants. And FOX31 was exclusively invited to come along as he spread good will.
We can't tell you his name, but we can tell you the origins of his philanthropy. For nearly three decades, Larry Stewart, a Kansas City businessman, gave $1.3 million of his own money anonymously to strangers. He became internationally known as "Secret Santa."
Stewart died from esophageal cancer in 2007, but his spirit of giving is alive and well.
The "Society of Secret Santas" is carrying on Stewart's tradition through a handful of anonymous "elves," who don Stewart's trademark red beret and perform random acts of kindness in cities across the country. They use their own money to give to those in need.
In Denver, that included a trip to the Goodwill thrift store in Glendale, where one shopper was stunned by the stranger who slipped him a crisp $100 bill, stamped with the words "SECRET SANTA" in bold red ink.
"Get out! My wife is going to be in shock," he told Secret Santa. "My birthday is on the 23rd of December. Merry Christmas and happy birthday to me."
Outside the Arc Thrift Store on South Broadway, a minivan held four young men and all of their belongings -- but it couldn't contain their excitement when Secret Santa knocked on the window and gave each of them $100.
"I can pay off my phone bill, maybe. Maybe even get me some new shoes, man!" the driver told FOX31.
The unexpected cash brought tears to a young mother shopping at the Dollar Tree store on Leetsdale Drive.
"I almost didn't get past Christmas last year. I got really sick and financially we were $20,000 under," she said while crying.
Sometimes stepping in to pay for a meal or helping a family down on their luck makes more difference than we'll ever know. Which is why Denver's "Secret Santa" wanted to be part of this program.
You may never know who he is, but the people he showed generosity to this week will always remember him and the lesson he delivered this Christmas.
"Hope and faith and just love all the way around, man," said one recipient of Secret Santa's generosity.
To learn more about the Society of Secret Santas, visit their website.AlertMe