INDEPENDENCE, Mo. - Christmas came early for some Kansas Citians this month.
For others, the holiday has been saved altogether.
Secret Santa, an anonymous Kansas City businessman, resurfaced Friday to dole out dozens of crisp $100 bills to unsuspecting strangers.
His name, "Secret Santa," is stamped on each of the bills in red ink.
Only the law enforcement officers who travel with him and help him know exactly who he is.
He sought out some people because of their enormous need, while others he set out on foot to search for spontaneously.
He walked by some and knew just when to stop for others.
"I look on the face, and I look for sadness, and when I find sadness there needs to be hope, so that's who I usually approach first, " Secret Santa said, wearing a red Kangol cap with "Elf" stitched in yellow on the back.
He told one family, "That's $400 Secret Santa dollars, and I hope it makes your Christmas a little bit better."
"Thank you!" they said with smiles.
Some explained that it was the first time they have smiled in a while.
"Wow, I'm still crying!" a tearful mother said several minutes after Secret Santa approached her in an Independence thrift shop with $100.
She said she could now afford to bring her son back home for the holidays.
In 2007, the current Secret Santa took over the mission started by his friend, Kansas City millionaire Larry Stewart, who was the original, covert "SS."
The Secret Santa mission continued after Stewart suddenly died.
It is estimated that the total amount Stewart gave away between 1979 and 2006 was $1.3 million.
This year, Secret Santa has given out $100,000.
While the money helps bring a smile to most people because they can now pay bills or put gifts under the tree, there are others whose life story shocks and sears into his heart.
One mother, Dana Gregg, looked at him with sad eyes and said: "I have four children. One's dying."
Gregg told him the painful news: her oldest child, 22-year-old Eastyn Roberts, is near death.
She said, "She's only got a few days left."
Eastyn is dying of stage-four stomach cancer. She will leave behind a 19-month-old child.
And Gregg's family just learned Eastyn's younger, 11-year-old sister now also has the same type of cancer.
Secret Santa's gift was large to this family.
He said, counting out bills, "Here's $1,000."
Gregg looked at him, crying, "Thank you, thank you! Thank you very much!"
She said the money will help pay for Eastyn's funeral expenses.
"It's like losing my oldest baby," Gregg said.
She said the gift gave her a little hope again.
Secret Santa said showing others how they, too, can give hope is the reason why he allows the media to follow him.
"I would encourage everyone to give themselves a gift this Christmas," he explained, "and that's to do a random act of kindness for somebody else, because you'll get more back than what you give."
Secret Santa said "Elf", stitched on the back of his red hat, stands for "Ever Lasting Friend."
In November, the wealthy businessman stunned New Yorkers in Staten Island by handing out hundred-dollar bills to people who had lost everything to Superstorm Sandy.
If you would like to learn more about Secret Santa, or tell him what his gift giving has done to inspire you, log onto secretsantaworld.net or call and leave a message at (800) 897-5632.
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