around this time, the siblings start asking Arlene Galaxidas
about The Toronto Star Santa Claus Fund gift boxes.
Since the social worker met
Paul and Sally for the first time in 1998, when they were 7 and
9 years old, respectively, the brother and sister, who both have
autism, have been bombarding Galaxidas with requests for the
presents — and they still do even though they're now too old to
receive them. (The gift boxes are distributed to children up to
12 years old.)
"They always ask `is that funny
She says Paul and Sally have
been peppering her with queries about the boxes at almost all of
their weekly meetings. "They looked so forward to the (elves)
coming to their door to deliver the gifts," she says. "And they
always came to me in January and showed me what they got."
When Galaxidas first met the
siblings and their mother, Samantha, 41, who is also
developmentally delayed and functions at a Grade 5 level, it was
two days past the cut-off date for requesting the Santa Claus
But, sensing their immense
need, Galaxidas sprang to action, bringing the family to the
attention of her superiors and onto the Santa Claus Fund's
radar. "They said it was no problem," Galaxidas says of how
everyone jumped through hoops to accommodate the family, which
has always had tremendous trouble getting by.
Mother and children — their names
have been changed for privacy reasons — have struggled on every
possible level to secure the necessities of life and maintain
basic hygiene. That's why the presents inside the Santa Claus
Fund box — which include a hat, mitts, a warm top, socks, a
book, candy, a toy and a toothbrush kit — are a big help.
Galaxidas, who works for
Catholic Family Services, was put in touch with the family more
than eight years ago after the mother's husband was taken from
their home in handcuffs. He had beaten her.
Struggling to get past that
hardship, the family is now dealing with another tragic issue.
The mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer recently and her
death is imminent. Functioning at the level of a child in
elementary school, she wouldn't visit a doctor for several years
when she started to develop back pain, until one day a couple
years ago when Galaxidas marched her to a physician's waiting
"She doesn't grasp that she's
dying," Galaxidas says of the woman who looks 20 years older
than her age and has diminished to waif-like proportions. "She
isn't aware of the full impact on her body. She thinks she's
Right now, Galaxidas is helping
secure the future of the siblings, but says when she sees them
this time of year she's always reminded of how the Santa Claus
Fund was able to touch their strained lives.
"It's very generous," Galaxidas
says of the gift boxes. "It's been around for many decades and
it's done a valuable service."
The Toronto Star Santa Claus Fund
is aiming to raise $1.4 million to deliver gift boxes to 45,000
underprivileged children in Toronto, Mississauga, Brampton, Ajax
If you have been touched by the
Santa Claus Fund or have a story to share please email