Sincerely Santa kicks off each year with a parade from Ybor City to Desoto Elementary. Santa reads the children a story.

This holiday season Sincerely Santa has already filtered through almost 600 letters from children across the Hillsborough county area asking Santa for remote controlled trucks, a simple pair of pants, even just a ball to play with. Thanks to help from Westfield Brandon mall, local residents will have the opportunity to become sponsors by selecting a child through the corresponding letter and purchasing a gift.
Along with the mall space during high peak holiday hours, Diane Miller, former president of the organization, explained, Westfield Brandon mall also contributes “complimentary advertising and signage, all gratis. Westfield has always been very generous.”
“It is part of our way to give back to the community. It is part of our holiday plan,” expressed Dawn Arvidson marketing director for Westfield Brandon.
Every year, beginning in October, students from kindergarten through third grade are asked to write letters to Santa requesting gifts for the upcoming holidays. With support from Hillsborough District Schools, those with the most need are selected. In the letters their teachers include pertinent information about each child, such as, any specific need concerning books for a particular class or missing supplies, also uniform colors and size, as well as any number of siblings.
Once the letters are received, they are processed and bound in album binders, a project which takes volunteers about a week to accomplish. Although some letters are sent to several corporate partners for potential sponsorship, most will be on display at the Sincerely Santa booth outside of Dillard’s.
Starting Black Friday through Sunday, December 12, Miller explained, “Volunteers will man the booth during mall operating hours. The letters are there until Saturday, December 11. All the gifts need to be back to the mall by December 12.”
Since 1987, Hillsborough county Sheriff’s Office and Fire Rescue, Tampa Police Department and Fire Rescue, Temple Terrace Police Department and Fire Rescue, Plant City Police Department and Hillsborough county Schools have all been involved in making Sincerely Santa happen. Every year police and firefighters volunteer to deliver the gifts to each of the families in time for the holidays.
Even if gifts are not an option, money donations are accepted. “We divide the money among the remaining letters and shop away, usually at Wal-Mart in Valrico and Bloomingdale.” Miller explained. This year volunteers will shop on Tuesday, December 14 in Valrico and Thursday, December 16 in Bloomingdale.
For more information or to become involved with Sincerely Santa contact Miller at 417-1226. For any questions regarding Westfield Brandon Mall call 661-5100.

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