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Natalie's Everyday Heroes: Rich Gentile of 'Santa for a Day' program

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- On Christmas morning, many kids wake up early to run and see what Santa left under the tree. This year, Santa got a helping hand in Milwaukee from a man named Rich Gentile. His organization, Santa for a Day, provided presents for 300 Milwaukee kids.

The Santa for a Day program kicked off in Milwaukee on November 9th. Kids gathered at a party to write their letters to Santa. They told him what they’re thankful for, and what they’d like for Christmas. 

It’s a childhood tradition that some of the kids had never done before.

“I want an LOL Doll, and Jojo Siwa,” wrote 8-year-old Alonna Davis.

One little boy asked for a bike, and another, toys from Toy Story 4.

“I did it when I was a little child, and it was fun,” remembered Darnella Baldwin. “So, it's all about the kids.”

Students from Marquette High School helped the little ones put pencil to paper.

“We're here to help these guys and if they need any help with coming up with ideas for present,” said one student named Aiden. 

Bango from the Bucks also stopped by to add to the festive atmosphere. 

Santa for a Day founder, Rich Gentile, worried that writing a letter to Santa might have gone by the wayside in this digital age. That’s part of what inspirited him. 

“Santa for a Day is really about reintroducing Santa to today's world,” Gentile said.

Once the children finished their letters, all of those gift requests went to Santa for a Day. The organization coordinates to get the kids at least one thing from their list.

“It's all about providing hope and fulfilling dreams and wishes and I think it's important when you're a kid,” he said.

“I feel like this time of the year, it's the year of giving,” said Nettina Cole at the party. “Giving and loving and just supporting each other.”

About a month after the kids wrote their letters, a huge delivery was made to the Milwaukee Housing Authority’s Community Services Building. 

“We sent off all the letters to them and then they filled the orders,” said Maria Rodriguez, Resident Services Manager. “It was like Santa on Amazon!”

Rodriguez helped set up the presents on long tables, organized so parents could come and pick them up. Santa was there to take pictures with the kids, too.

Gentile and Santa for a Day delivered the presents in festive gift bags. Rodriguez said Gentile’s generosity made a big difference this Christmas.

“This really means that there's an extra gift for a child or *a* gift for a child,” she said.

Alisha Barr picked up the present her 8-year-old son asked for.

“His biggest thing was a comforter set,” Barr said, noting that it was a practical gift.

The parents and grandparents are excited to see the kids’ faces on Christmas.

“You're waking up in the morning and running downstairs, opening up my presents like, wow,” said Baldwin.

Rodriguez said she felt grateful to Gentile and Santa for a Day for making this season a little brighter.

“It's about the kids, and maybe thinking about what's out there,” she said. “Hoping for something, or wishing for something, and sometimes kids don't get a chance to do that.”

To find out more about Santa for a Day, you can visit santaforaday.net.

If you’d like to nominate someone for Natalie’s Everyday Heroes, send Natalie an email at nshepherd@cbs58.com. 

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