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Old 11-19-2006, 08:58 PM   #1
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Who Is Secret Santa?

He has given out about 1.3 million dollars, I think that's amazing. Now he has cancer.





By MARIA SUDEKUM FISHER, Associated Press Writer Sat Nov 18

For 26 years, a man known only as Secret Santa has roamed the streets every December quietly giving people money. He started with $5 and $10 bills. As his fortune grew, so did the gifts. In recent years, Secret Santa has been handing out $100 bills, sometimes two or three at a time, to people in thrift stores, diners and parking lots. So far, he's anonymously given out about $1.3 million. It's been a long-held holiday mystery: Who is Secret Santa?

But now, weak from chemotherapy and armed with a desire to pass on his belief in random kindness, Secret Santa has decided it's time to reveal his identity.

He is Larry Stewart, a 58-year-old businessman from the Kansas City suburb of Lee's Summit, Mo., who made his millions in cable television and long-distance telephone service.

His holiday giving started in December 1979 when he was nursing his wounds at a drive-in restaurant after getting fired. It was the second year in a row he had been fired the week before Christmas.

"It was cold and this car hop didn't have on a very big jacket, and I thought to myself, `I think I got it bad. She's out there in this cold making nickels and dimes,'" he said.

He gave her $20 and told her to keep the change.

"And suddenly I saw her lips begin to tremble and tears begin to flow down her cheeks. She said, `Sir, you have no idea what this means to me.'"

Stewart went to the bank that day and took out $200, then drove around looking for people who could use a lift. That was his "Christmas present to himself." He's hit the streets each December since.

While Stewart has also given money to other community causes in Kansas City and his hometown of Bruce, Miss., he offers the simple gifts of cash because it's something people don't have to "beg for, get in line for, or apply for."

That was a feeling he came to know in the early '70s when he was living out of his yellow Datsun 510. Hungry and tired, Stewart mustered the nerve to approach a woman at a church and ask for help.

The woman told him the person who could help was gone for the day, and Stewart would have to come back the next day.

"As I turned around, I knew I would never do that again," Stewart said.

Over the years, Stewart's giving as Secret Santa grew. He started a Web site. He allowed the news media to tag along, mostly because he wanted to hear about the people who received the money. Reporters had to agree to guard his identity and not name his company, which he still does not want revealed.

His entourage grew over the years, and he began traveling with special elves. People like the late Negro Leagues icon Buck O'Neil, who handed out hugs while Stewart doled out $100s. NFL Hall of Famer Dick Butkus will join Stewart this year in Chicago when Stewart hands out $100s in honor of O'Neil, the first African-American coach in the Major Leagues.

They'll give out $100,000 between Chicago and Kansas City. Four Secret Santas who Stewart "trained" will hand out an additional $65,000.

Doctors told Stewart in April that he had cancer of the esophagus and it had spread to his liver. He has been lucky, he says, to get into a clinical trial at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. But the aggressive chemotherapy has stripped away his appetite and energy. He's lost about 100 pounds, but has held onto his white hair.

The treatment costs more than $16,000 a month, not including the cost of traveling to Houston every two weeks and staying there for five or six days. He now has two months off, but returns to treatment in February.

His insurance company won't cover the cost of the treatment, which has left him concerned about his finances and his family.

Now, his mission is bigger than handing out $100 bills. Stewart wants to speak to community groups about his devotion to kindness and to inspire others to donate their time and money.

"That's what we're here for," Stewart says, "to help other people out."

___

On the Net:

http://secretsantausa.com/
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Old 11-20-2006, 02:43 AM   #2
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Old 11-20-2006, 02:48 AM   #3
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Wow - world needs more people like him. Hope he pulls thru
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Old 01-13-2007, 09:53 AM   #4
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Larry Stewart died yesterday.

Quote:
KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Larry Stewart, a millionaire who became known as Secret Santa for his habit of roaming the streets each December and anonymously handing money to people, died Friday. He was 58.

Stewart died from complications from esophageal cancer, said Jackson County Sheriff Tom Phillips, a longtime friend.

Stewart, who spent 26 years giving a total $1.3 million, gained international attention in November when he revealed himself as Secret Santa. He was diagnosed in April with cancer, and said he wanted to use his celebrity to inspire other people to take random kindness seriously.

"That's what we're here for," Stewart said in a November interview, "to help other people out."

Stewart, from the Kansas City suburb of Lee's Summit, made his millions in cable television and long-distance telephone service.

His private holiday giving started in December 1979 when he was at a drive-in restaurant nursing his wounds from having been fired. It was the second year in a row he had been fired the week before Christmas.

"It was cold and this carhop didn't have on a very big jacket, and I thought to myself, `I think I got it bad. She's out there in this cold making nickels and dimes,'" he said. He gave her $20 and told her to keep the change.

After that, Stewart hit the streets each December, handing out money, often $100 bills, sometimes two and three at a time. He also gave money to community causes in Kansas City and his hometown of Bruce, Miss.

Stewart said he offered the simple gifts of cash every year because it was something people didn't have to "beg for, get in line for, or apply for."

Stewart gave out $100,000 between Chicago and Kansas City in December. Four Secret Santas whom Stewart "trained" gave out another $65,000.
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Old 01-13-2007, 12:18 PM   #5
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The world was a better place with people like him it. R.I.P
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Old 01-13-2007, 06:14 PM   #6
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That's sad, the world really does need more people like him.
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Old 01-13-2007, 06:31 PM   #7
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Farewell, sweetie. R.I.P.
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Old 01-13-2007, 07:23 PM   #8
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This is very sad. The world is definitely a lesser place without him. RIP.
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Old 01-14-2007, 06:18 AM   #9
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This indeed is very sad...

But it's such a positive thing that he got to do these good deeds before he died
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Old 12-21-2007, 05:42 PM   #10
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KANSAS CITY, Missouri (AP) -- Susan Dahl had spent four months homeless in Colorado and just been on a harrowing 10-hour bus trip through sleet and snow. Hungry and broke, all she wanted to do was get back to family in Minnesota.

That's when a tall man in a red coat and red hat sat next to her at the downtown bus station, talked to her quietly and then slipped her $100 on that recent December afternoon.

The man was doing the work of Larry Stewart, Kansas City's original Secret Santa, who anonymously wandered city streets doling out $100 bills to anyone who looked like they needed it.

Stewart died of cancer at age 58 earlier this year, but his legacy lives on.

"He said `Here's a $100 bill ... and this is in memory of Larry Stewart,"' said Dahl.

During about a quarter century, Stewart quietly gave out more than $1.3 million to people in laundromats, diners, bus stations, shelters and thrift stores, saying it was his way of giving back at Christmas for all the wealth and generosity he had received in his lifetime.

For years, Stewart did not want his name known or want thanks or applause. But last December he acknowledged who he was and used his last few months, while battling cancer, to press his message of kindness toward others. He even trained some friends in the ways of Secret Santa.

This Christmas, a friend who told Stewart in the hospital that he would carry on for him is out on the streets, handing out $100 bills, each one stamped with "Larry Stewart, Secret Santa."

Between Kansas City and several other cities this Christmas, the new Secret Santa will give away $75,000 of his own money, mostly in $100 bills.

"I didn't want to be a Secret Santa," said the man, a business consultant who lives in the Kansas City area. "I wanted to give Larry money. But last year, he said I had to hand it out myself. So I did, and I got hooked."

This new Secret Santa talks about Larry Stewart to just about everyone he encounters. "Have you ever heard of a man named Larry Stewart?" he asks before handing out $100 or more.

Depending on who he's talking to, the new Secret Santa might say Stewart was a man who believed in making people happy by giving them money they didn't have to ask for, apply for or wait in line for.

"There was this fella named Larry Stewart," he tells a man in the bus station. "He was an old friend of mine. He was called Secret Santa, and every year he would find a few people who might need a little money and he would ask that you pass on the kindness."

People respond differently to the gesture. Some cry. Some scream. A rare few even say "No thanks."

Others take the money and offer their own gifts. like Robert Young, who was homeless and had only 20 cents in his pocket. When Secret Santa gave him $200, Young, 50, took out an old notebook and ripped out a song he had written.

"It's yours now," he told Secret Santa, who thanked Young, and carefully tucked the pages into his pocket.

The new Secret Santa has also started a Web site, and is trying to recruit other Secret Santas across the country. "Larry's dream was for a Secret Santa in every city," Kansas City's Santa said.

There are now a couple apprentices, with more candidates turning up all the time. But, he says, you don't have to be willing to hand out money to be a Secret Santa.

"Anyone can be a Secret Santa," he says. "You don't have to give away $100. You can give away kindness. Help someone."

Susan Dahl, right, cries after Secret Santa, left, handed her a $100 bill last week.

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Old 12-21-2007, 07:06 PM   #11
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It's nice to see a legacy continue.
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Old 12-22-2007, 01:29 AM   #12
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What a fantastic man and wonderful story

so sad that he has now passed, RIP
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Old 12-22-2007, 01:33 AM   #13
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Great story, wish more were like him.
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Old 12-22-2007, 05:53 AM   #14
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Just a day or so ago I remembered this story from last year and I wondered if any of the Stewart's friends had kept it up this year. It's nice to know they have.
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Old 12-22-2007, 09:32 AM   #15
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I'm glad they've kept it up.
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