A White Christmas in Arizona

What was your biggest Christmas wish as a kid?

If you grew up in the Midwest, it was probably something simple – something you wished for year after year.

You wanted a White Christmas. Snow on the ground, in the air, everywhere. The more of it, the better. Because snow means fun.

But if you’re a kid living in the sunny Southwest, a White Christmas is out of the question.

Or is it?

Back in 2001, we offered our customers dozens of unexpected holiday surprises. One free order every day. Personal delivery from Santa. $1,000 for a favorite charity. And so on.

But the surprise that seemed to capture everyone’s imagination was one we described this way in our catalog:

A White Christmas Delivered to your Door. Whether you live in southern California or Atlanta, we’ll send an expert snowmaker to your home to create your own personal winter wonderland. The winning customer will be chosen at random between November 5 and December 10. Whether you prefer to build a snowman or toss snowballs, you’ll have the goods to do it!

Here’s where our story takes the kind of magical twist that can only happen at Christmas. The winning customer donated the gift to the Sunshine Acres Children’s Home in Mesa, Arizona.

Over the years, Sunshine Acres has given a loving home to more than 1,600 kids who have been abandoned, abused, neglected or homeless. It was started in 1956 by the father and mother of Carol Whitworth, the current Executive Director. She remembers the morning of December 20, 2001 like it was yesterday.

All night long, the production company that worked with Lands’ End had been making snow – an incredible 40 tons of it, enough to lay a white blanket 4 to 6 inches deep on the ground. When the 70 or so children awoke, each one was given a Lands’ End winter coat and gloves, in their correct size (we’d done our homework!), then sent outside shouting and laughing.

“The children were so excited,” says Carol. “Many of them had never seen snow before. And of course, they’d never played in it. They slid on sleds, they threw snowballs, they built a snowman. The kids played in the snow till it completely melted!”

Carol remembers that there was even a hot chocolate bar, so the kids could have a little sweet refreshment while they played.

“It made the children feel very special,” says Carol. “Many of them come here with such bad memories, but this was a wonderful memory they’ll always have.”

Carol has one other reason for remembering the White Christmas of 2001. Her daughter Shara is a flight attendant for Southwest Airlines. Not long ago, a Southwest pilot had a little down time, and asked Shara for a story. Shara told the story of the White Christmas at Sunshine Acres.

The pilot’s face brightened. “You mean Sunshine Acres is still there?” he asked. Turned out he had come there as a little boy, 4 years old, back in 1956, and stayed for a few years.

“I remember swinging on the swings, saying to myself, ‘Someday I’m going to be a pilot.’ “

Nice to know that dreams still come true, and every kid can have a White Christmas, when people care.

Have a story or photos you’d like to share?
Email it to us at MyStory@landsend.com
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