Dasher and Dancer, Prancer and Vixen, Comet and Cupid, Donder and Blitzen – and even Rudolph – were nowhere to be found.

Dasher and Dancer, Prancer and Vixen, Comet and Cupid, Donder and Blitzen – and even Rudolph – were nowhere to be found.

But that didn’t matter to the countless folks whose lives were touched by Secret Santa on his most recent sleigh ride through Independence.

Santa’s reindeer were replaced by Jackson County Sheriff Mike Sharp’s patrol car and a fleet carrying Secret Santa’s elves. With a twinkle in his eye, this longtime area resident made an impact that had everyone believing in Santa now – and forever.

 He handed out $100 bills, stamped with “SECRET SANTA” in red, and offered them something even more important – hope and compassion.

Just ask Thelma W., a grandmother of 11 who is blind in one eye, or Christina P., a single mom with two kids who were back at home pleading for a Christmas tree that she couldn’t afford.

Then there’s Cheryl, who wanted a hug more than a $100 bill, and young Sammy Faiva, who touched Secret Santa’s heart in such a way that it was like a gift to the man who brought so much joy this Christmas season.

Following a quick stop in Lee’s Summit, the Secret Santa Sleigh Ride made its way to the Independence Community Services League office, where lives were changed by the minute.

“I came here to get some help,” Thelma said after meeting with Secret Santa, “and I received a blessing from God. I cannot believe what happened today. Praise God, I have money to get my grandchildren Christmas gifts.”

Christina told Secret Santa about her apartment. It had no Christmas tree or presents and she was facing eviction.

He made sure she would have enough money this Christmas to ease some of her burden.

“I don’t really care about not having a tree, but my boys wanted one,” Christina explained. “To me, Christmas is about Jesus. I don’t have a car, so I can’t get to church on a regular basis, but what happened today proves that Jesus is looking over me.

“I never thought that I would leave the Community Services League feeling like this. I praise God and thank him for helping me today.”

She paused for a moment, and added, “And I do believe in Santa – Santa and the love of Jesus Christ, my savior.”

While a local television crew filmed many of these encounters, Secret Santa made sure that only his hands were photographed.

“It’s not important who I am,” he explained, “but the reason I wanted some members of the media here today is because I want people to see this and hope that it has a ripple effect.

“Maybe someone will want to make some sandwiches and take them out and give them to homeless people or other people in need. Maybe they will take out some warm gloves or a blanket.

“These people I have met today are resilient. They have pride, and I am humbled to be in their presence. Oh, I get as much out of this as I give. They inspire me.”

He was especially inspired by 11-year-old Sammy, who volunteers at CSL.

“It’s special to help people,” said Sammy, as his father, Sam, and Frank White, Kansas City Royals Hall of Fame second baseman and the newest ELF (Ever Lasting Friend) for Secret Santa, looked on.

“If you can help someone at Christmas, that is the best present.”

Sammy’s compassion was rewarded with a $100 bill and the promise that Secret Santa would be there when he became an Eagle Scout.

Secret Santa believes that a random act of kindness can pay dividends that last a lifetime.

He proved it on this memorable sleigh ride.

“God is good!” shouted Cheryl as she left the pantry with groceries and newfound hope. “I didn’t believe in Santa Claus until today. Now, I know he’s real. And God bless him.”