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A tradition of generosity: Cowboy Santas partner with Santa's Helpers

Fort Worth's Cowboy Santas has partnered with WFAA's Santa's Helpers for 38 years, bringing Christmas to hundreds of thousands of Tarrant County kids.

FORT WORTH, Texas — A mile from downtown Fort Worth and 4,000 miles – give or take – south of the North Pole, sits a warehouse that is part Santa’s Workshop, part Walmart, and all heart.

“When I look back after each season and see what we’ve been able to accomplish, it’s just amazing,” said Carol Brown of Cowboy Santas.

Brown was surrounded by dozens of volunteers separating donated toys and organizing them on shelves. Then they each get assigned a family to go back through and shop for. “Each child gets a large toy, a small toy, a game or puzzle, a stuffed animal, a stocking stuffer and books,” said Shannon Ratliff, a volunteer.

“Every boy likes Spiderman,” she said as she grabbed a small Spiderman skateboard for the little boy she was assigned. “I guess for the skateboard we should probably get a helmet, too.”

She paused for a moment after filling her basket with toys for the little boy. “I can’t imagine being in the position where you wake up Christmas morning and don’t have anything for your kids.”

That’s reality for thousands of families Brown serves through the Cowboy Santas program.

The shelves at her warehouse are stocked, in part, by donations to WFAA’s Santa’s Helpers – a 49-year-old tradition.

Brown was just getting started helping low income Fort Worth families 38 years ago.

“We were twiddling our thumbs asking, ‘How do we make this happen? How do we do it?’” Brown recalled. She still remembers when her co-founder heard about the Santa’s Helpers program. “We thought it’s worth a try, let’s call and see if they’d be willing to help. And we called they was like, sure we’d love to help!”

Almost four decades later there is still need, but Cowboy Santas is filling it. “It’s been a labor of love,” Brown said. “We serve anywhere from 8,000 to 10,000 kids every year which equates to 4,000 to 5,000 families.”

“At Christmas, families have to make tremendous choices. Santa’s Helpers for many years was our only way of getting toys into the city of Fort Worth and Tarrant County. It gives you a sense of pride that your city, community, different organizations and toy programs have come together to make it happen.”