By ZEINAB NAJM
More than 600 children in metropolitan Detroit area received Christmas gifts this year thanks to 19-year-old Kenneth Isaacson, also known as Kid Santa.
The 2020 project exceeded Isaacson’s expectations as he was able to deliver gifts to 200 houses in over 30 cities in four counties. Children from ages 0 to 17 had their wishes granted.
Communities included Dearborn Heights, Dearborn, Taylor, Southgate, Melvindale, Wyandotte, Detroit, Livonia, Redford Township, Ecorse, Garden City and River Rouge.
Isaacson and his group of almost 100 volunteers wrapped and delivered gifts throughout December in order to meet the Christmas deadline.
“I was called into work Christmas Day and while I was sitting in the ambulance truck watching the sun raise, I couldn’t help but think about how many kids right now are waking up and running to the Christmas trees to the gifts we donated,” he said. “Our efforts helped spread joy across houses in metro Detroit.”
This year, the project’s GoFundMe raised over $22,000 with the boost from a TV interview on “Live with Kelly and Ryan” which aired Dec. 22.
Blue Air donated $3,000 to the project and Kelly Ripa made a $10,000 donation — $5,000 for the project and $5,000 for Isaacson himself.
Isaacson choose to use $4,000 of the donation for himself to help a Dearborn Heights family pay off three months of rent they were behind on.
“The mom and dad recently found new jobs, but they were facing eviction from their house due to back rent,” Isaacson said.
On Dec. 22, Isaacson and his volunteers received the donated funds from Ripa and Blue Air which they used to purchase gifts from Target in Livonia.
It took 16 Target shopping carts and donated school buses to buy gifts from a shopping list, wrap them at Moose Lodge No. 1795 and deliver them to 24 families within two days.
Volunteers and local police pitched in driving their own vehicles to also help pass out gifts on Christmas Eve.
“Some families didn’t know gifts coming to them,” Isaacson said. “It was a great to see how surprised they were.”
A few families were missed for initial donations, but Isaacson went back to Target for more gifts to specially deliver them on Dec. 26 and 27. Gifts were also donated to Vista Maria in Dearborn Heights and Samaritas Family Shelter in Westland.
Next year Isaacson hopes to help 1,000 children, which he’ll have a starting budget of $15,000 thanks to the additional donations made through the GoFundMe page.
“We’ll continue to grow the Kid Santa project to reach more children and families,” he said. “Changes will be made to make the project more successful next year with better coordination and communication because I want 100 percent success.”
Isaacson is aiming for Sept. 1 as a starting date next year.
Now living in Dearborn Heights, Isaacson was born in Perm, Russia, and abandoned at birth before he was adopted as an orphan and brought to the United States. He then spent time in the Michigan Foster Care System, entering at the age of 15.
He continued his annual tradition of bringing Santa Claus to children after the idea was created three years ago while he was living at a group home in Albion. Isaacson decided to save up money from his job at Taco Bell and bought items from a Dollar Store for children at a homeless shelter.
He spent that Christmas at the shelter and read to children at a hospital where he gave out 40 toys. Last year, Isaacson purchased and delivered toys to Bronson Children’s Hospital in Kalamazoo on Christmas morning.
After he graduated from high school, he attended the emergency medical services program at Kalamazoo Valley Community College and now works as an EMT at Rapid Response.
Isaacson also is a firefighter recruit at Schoolcraft College in the firefighter technology program. He donates money from his paychecks and even donates plasma to use the proceeds to buy Christmas gifts for the project.
To contact Isaacson email [email protected]
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected])