On the 22nd day before Christmas, some Wilton businesses gave to us, an amazing show of spirit for the community!
While that line may not have the melody or exact rhythm of the original Christmas carol, it certainly captures the harmony of a handful of local small business owners who together staged a holiday fundraiser for needy Wilton families. Their combined efforts on Dec. 3 for a “Santa Portrait Fundraiser,” raised more than $900 for the Wilton Interfaith Secret Santa Fund, part of Wilton Social Services.
The idea was sparked back in September—Megan Abrahamson, owner of Blue Star Bazaar was holding a trunk show at the popular Wilton café, , and she was trying to brainstorm a holiday fundraiser with Babycat owner Jeena Choi.
In a moment of miraculous coincidence, into the shop walked Skip Heydt, with a very noticeable long white beard and mustache. The local Wilton businessman is during holiday months when he's not running his marketing firm, HEH associates, in the same Crossways shopping plaza.
“I said to him, ‘What’s with the facial hair?’” recounted Choi, laughing, “and then he said, 'I’m Santa Skip, you know!' and then I saw it, because he has white hair and twinkling blue eyes. 'You’re right, you are Santa!' So right then and there, I said to Megan, ‘Let’s do something here!’ Skip said, ‘I’ll gladly help.’ The light bulb kind of went off.”
Immediately on board was Andrea Topalian, a Wilton mom whose thriving photography and portraiture business, Moments by Andrea, is based in town. She donated her time and skills and donated the homey, fireside spot next to the Christmas tree for the photo shoot. Abrahamson and Choi each contributed a percentage of their respective sales proceeds on the day of the event, and Santa Skip donated his time as well.
Once the event was announced, the group was able to fill all available reservations slots in just two days, as more than 50 families were eager to get a special portrait of their children meeting Santa. Each participating family was asked to contribute to the fundraiser in return for a unique photographic memento.
“The response was overwhelming and that definitely speaks to the generosity of the community—they know there’s a need out there,” said Choi.
Cathy Pierce, director of social services for Wilton reiterated just how serious a situation it is, more than ever before.
“In Wilton we have more children and more families in need of help this year. With cutback in the federal programs, there’s more need in heating fuel assistance. The food pantry, the holiday program—the need is definitely greater this year, and we so appreciate this kind of community support," said Pierce.
Choi said it was important to show that Wilton businesses are dedicated to the community.
“We realize how fortunate we are to be in business this year. So I think we all, without having to say it, thought the same thing—that we need to give back to our community to keep it going. We wanted to raise money for people very, very local, and it’s heartbreaking to hear that in a town like Wilton, there are children who can’t get their Christmas presents this year. It’s close to home, and that’s why we had to do something.”