Hi, My name is Michelle DiGiacomo, and I am the Founder of Direct Effect Charities.
For over 20 years, our non-profit organization has helped answer thousands of letters to Santa from students at Chicago Public Schools.
This year, we've received over 5,000 letters.
We have 250 letters to Santa left, and we need your help to answer every single one before time runs out!
100% of all donations will be used to cover the remaining letters to Santa and continue the work of this beautiful charity into the new year and beyond.
This mission is medicine to me and gives me purpose in this world.
Earlier this year, I had a stroke and can no longer fulfill my mission alone, so I am asking
for much-needed help.
Although I'm disabled and I can't do very many things anymore, I can still do this.
I recognize we are all fighting our own battles and struggling in one way or another, but if you can please find it in your heart, I'd be eternally grateful for your support in helping us bring a Christmas holiday to thousands of small children attending Chicago Public Schools.
The deadline is on Dec. 19 — so that every child will get a gift in time for Christmas!
About our Letters to Santa Program:
Our Letters to Santa is a program started in Chicago over 25 years ago by Jeff Zaslow.
Michelle DiGiacomo took the reins from him in 2001 under Direct Effect Charities and never looked back. Each year since thousands of Chicago public school students have received gifts purchased just for them through the hands of many wonderful donors. Michelle calls them her direct effect family and lives for the last three months of each year, as playing Santa Claus has been her greatest joy.
This year, she had a stroke in early October. She went to the emergency room at St. Joseph’s Hospital and was hospitalized for two days. In spite of her symptoms, they neglected to diagnose her stroke. She desperately wanted help and begged them to send her to Shirley Ryan Ability Lab, but they told her she didn’t have enough “goals” to go there and offered to send her to a nursing home instead. She wasn’t quite ready for that yet.
After leaving St. Joseph’s and several more weeks of incredible weakness and pain, she told her doctor that she couldn’t take it anymore. She was so weak that she could barely walk, yet she was living alone and trying desperately to take care of herself.
Her doctor finally made her go to Northwestern Hospital, where she was admitted. They initially feared the new weakness in her body was a result of the multiple spinal fusions in her neck necessitating surgery. After extensive testing, it was determined not to be spine related. She was then put in the hands of Northwestern‘s neurological team, who would discover and diagnose a stroke, which had happened in the last month. She literally sat alone at home for weeks after having had a stroke!
Northwestern did extensive work ups and after eight days, sent her to Shirley Ryan. She was grateful as she knew it was where she needed to be.
After nearly a month of physical therapy, she was released only two weeks ago. She remains partially paralyzed, and her legs don’t work very well, yet she is back on her own with only the assistance of a power wheelchair, a wonderful caretaker three days a week, and an incredible drive.
In spite of all of this, she hasn’t dropped the ball on letters to Santa. Because she had started it well before October, she had already put out the many contacts needed for her huge donor base. She had all her Santas in a row and felt fortunate for this. With the help of a longtime friend and supporter, she was able to run the program once again.
Out of 5000 letters written, there are about 250 remaining, and her goal is to get these letters answered by December 19th. She is also driven to continue her work with Direct Effect Charities, which truly keeps her alive.
Donations will be used to cover the remaining letters to Santa and continue the work of this wonderful charity into the new year and beyond. Please help if you can!