MADISON (WKOW) -- An anonymous donor is brightening this holiday season by giving $100,000 to help Dane County families in need.
The United Way received the money with a promise to spend it on gift cards for teenagers and formerly homeless families who now have homes through the Housing First program.
Every year, United Way raises money to buy gifts for teenagers in the Toys for Tots program, but this year, every single young person on the list of about 1,300 teens will receive a $50 gift card.
"This is a donor who really wants these kids to have a normal shopping experience instead of receiving a pre-purchased gift," said Leslie Howard, United Way President and CEO, "Up to this point we had received just $3,000 to buy gifts for hundreds of teens, and now we have this donation. It's just a heartwarming feeling to be able to help a donor make such a big difference for families this holiday season."
This year, there are more than 45,000 toys donated to Toys for Tots but most of them are for little kids. Buying for teenagers is much more difficult and that's why this year's gift certificates mean so much.
"There's plenty of things to buy for kids during the holidays but the 13-17 year old age range kind of gets overlooked because adults donating things don't really know what they want," said Victoria Budynsky, a volunteer coordinator for the United Way.
Carrie Loya chose a new backpack and a cell phone for her 14-year-old son from the Toys for Tots selection. but she says the gift card is even better.
"It means he can get whatever he wants and I don't have to hear about how Mom did something wrong!" she laughed.
Just like Santa, this donor is mysterious, spreading a little Christmas magic one teenager at a time.
"Thank you very much! My son will be very happy!" said Loya.
About $67,000 worth of gift cards will go to teenagers in the Toys for Tots program. Distribution runs through Friday at the Alliant Energy Center.
Another $16,000 in gift cards will go to 151 families in Housing First apartments.
The remaining $17,000 worth of gift cards will go to families with special needs previously identified through United Way support agencies.
The gift cards were purchased through Target and Shopko, who agreed to match 7 percent of the purchase price.