Yes, Carter County there is a Santa

Published 5:01 pm Thursday, December 16, 2021

BY IVAN SANDERS
STAR STAFF
ivan.sanders@elizabethton.com

Happy Valley Elementary, Middle, and High School students were reminded Thursday of what many people may have forgotten: there is, indeed, a Santa.

Every student in the elementary school received books and wrapped presents while the middle and high school received gift cards ranging from $10 to $25 while Happy Valley Elementary also received a $3,500 donation to purchase more library books.

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So who was the special Santa who made all this happen?

Her name is Mariah Walker and she not only provided each student with gifts but also supported another 86 children in the Rise Up program in Johnson City through her TikTok page.

“It was the grace of God I guess,” Walker said. “Long story short, I made a TikTok video and my first goal was to support the Rise Up kids. One of the larger TikToker’s dueted me and it kind of blew up. People started texting me saying who are we sponsoring next because we took care of all those kids.

“My Amazon driver, Donny, whose wife, Becky, works here was like ‘if you need someone else to sponsor there is a school’ so I called Becky and told her we were going to sponsor the school. I started adding stuff to the Amazon wish list and people started sending it. Within a couple of weeks, the wish list was completely done.”

Walker said space quickly filled with gifts for the students from all over. More than 700 gifts came for the school with an average of 200 boxes per day.

She and her husband organized the packages and stored them away and then took the gifts to a church to wrap each gift. Some of the gifts included Legos, Barbies, LCD writing boards, journals, gel pens, dinosaurs, and nerf guns which were distributed according to the child’s age.

Walker said nearly $30,000 of gifts were distributed, including the gift cards and books donated to the library.

“A smile on a child’s face is priceless,” said Walker. “Even being able to restore adults’ faith in humanity that there are people that are still kind and good means the world.”

Last year Walker said while she lived in California, she sponsored 10 foster kids out of her own money. She is hoping to get a quicker jump next year to be able to provide more gifts for students in Carter County.

Happy Valley Elementary Principal Mandy Greer put the day into perspective saying, “Christmas is love in action”.

“A lot of action and a lot of love is going on for these kids,” Greer said. “It’s just not this because the presents are a by-product of this and that’s amazing, but we have also had a Christmas musical this week; we had a Christmas reading night where parents came and joined us for the academic side of things; the band came and played down the hallway this week; and I would like to think that things like this happen because there is so much love for these children each and every day. Christmas is love in action.”