GAINESVILLE, Texas — For the past two weeks KGAF AM 1580 radio in Gainesville has been advertising a really "big" secret to be revealed Wednesday morning. The reveal, at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday as promised, involved $10,000 and proof that Christmas spirit is indeed in the air in Cooke County.
"Alright, so here's the deal. Everybody ready," station manager Steve Eberhart asked on-air during the morning broadcast. "KGAF radio is about to do something that we've never done before."
He announced that an anonymous donor approached him weeks ago wanting to provide $10,000 in a cashier’s check for the radio station to distribute to people who really need it this Christmas.
"They are indeed a Secret Santa," he told the KGAF audience.
Wednesday morning, with a deputy on hand just in case for security, Eberhart and the KGAF staff had the money, in $100 bills, in a briefcase. They invited the executive director of the Boys and Girls Club of Cooke County and surprised her with a $2,500 donation. They offered the same surprise to the executive director of VISTO which, among other projects, runs a food pantry in Cooke County.
But for the remaining $5,000 they took phone calls from KGAF listeners, wanting to hear who needed the money most. Jessica Holder, a mom of six who recently had to quit her job, was among the first invited to come to the station on N. Radio Hill Road to receive $500 in person.
"I'm really thankful for whoever did it," she said. "And just wow. I don't have any other words to say other than that."
Medical crises made up most of the reasons people called asking to be considered for the Christmas cash. "And I just had surgery yesterday. So this will help us a lot," Maria Smith said in her phone call to the radio station.
An hour later she too was at the radio station to receive her $500. And she explained that the bandage on the front of her neck was covering yesterday's sutures. She had a thyroid gland removed and will find out later this week if the biopsy reveals cancer.
"It lightens the load of what all we have to go through," Maria Smith said of the cash donation. "Such a beautiful heart to give to people you don't know. Just a wonderful person," she said of the anonymous donor.
The family of Paul Miller Jr. also called asking for help for his life-threatening medical problems. The 46-year-old husband and father fell critically ill earlier this month and required extensive hospitalization. But when his dad arrived at the radio station to pick up the $500 he had been awarded, he told me the gesture means just as much as the money.
"Every time anybody helps along the way it always helps. It keeps your head up," Paul Miller Sr. said.
And then the final call for the final $500 came from a man named Randy Lovato. "My mother is just getting out of the hospital today and I would just like to have a good Christmas for her," he explained in his phone call, tearfully explaining that his mom who recently suffered a stroke has told him she feels this might be her last Christmas.
"This is really going to make my Christmas. And I thank you all," he said through his tears when he arrived at the station to receive the $500 cash. "God bless you," he said to Eberhart and the KGAF staff.
"Thank you brother. Merry Christmas," Eberhart told him.
"Here at Christmastime what better thing to do than be able to help somebody that otherwise would not be able to have Christmas," Eberhart said.
It's a Christmas that's a little brighter, thanks to a little Christmas spirit...in the air.