A Secret Santa with a Checkbook

Pennsylvania families can now forget about their shopping debt

Families who did Christmas shopping at Wal-Mart in Everett, Pennsylvania — and put their purchases on layaway — got an unexpected helping of good cheer last week.

Everett is a small town in western Pennsylvania with a population of about 1,700. It’s located in a valley of the Allegheny Mountains.

“Some individuals were brought to tears when they were notified.”

In that small town, store manager Ryan Kennedy received a call from an anonymous “Santa B” — an individual offering to pay off the entire store’s layaway items.

“It was complete disbelief,” Kennedy told CNN. “It was definitely a great gesture. I was completely shocked.”

“Santa B” said he wanted to pay off everyone’s bill, for a total of $46,265.59.

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After Kennedy spoke with the anonymous Good Samaritan, they arranged a time for a third party connected to “Santa B” to drop off a check. Kennedy and his store received the check on Wednesday — and immediately began calling all those customers (a total of 194 people) with layaway accounts to tell them their bills had been paid.

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“Some individuals were brought to tears when they were notified,” Kennedy said.

A Wakefield, Massachusetts, woman and small-business owner plays Secret Santa at a local big box retailer every Christmas. She told LifeZette she receives far more than she gives.

“I go into the store and I speak with the manager beforehand, and I watch the layaway line and pick out a few people that look especially tired, and I tell the manager, ‘I would like to pay these people’s bills,'” she said. “Then, from where I am hiding, I am able to see the reaction when the person finds out their bill has been paid. There are many tears — some of them mine. I don’t want them to know it was me who paid their bill — I wouldn’t do it, in fact, if I couldn’t be anonymous.”

During the holiday season, many families use layaway to pay off their purchases over time, usually because they can’t pay for them all at once. Kennedy said that many of the items paid off by “Santa B” were Christmas presents.

“My daughter played the message before I got there,” shopper Christa Morton told CNN affiliate WJAC. “I asked if anyone called. She said, ‘You’re going to want to hear the message for yourself,’ so I said, ‘Am I going to be upset or mad?’ and she said, ‘It’s going to make you cry.’ So I walked upstairs and it was Wal-Mart saying that our Christmas layaway can be picked up and that it was completely paid for.”

Related: Dying Child Sees Santa One Last Time

Kennedy told CNN he had heard of other instances of a Secret Santa paying off Wal-Mart layaways in Pennsylvania. Layaways were anonymously paid off at two Harrisonburg stores last year and at a Mechanicsville location in 2014, according to Kennedy — but he was surprised a small town like Everett was chosen.

“I would be curious as to what made [the person] choose us, and let them know how grateful we are for the gesture, and how much it meant to the customers we have been able to serve,” he said.

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