Nevada-based Stephanie Rivera never got to celebrate Christmas. And then her community stepped in to change that.

A young mother in Las Vegas was overcome with joy and gratitude when all of her holiday dreams came true thanks to a local news crew and a community that cared.

A Las Vegas Mom With a Tough Upbringing


Stephanie Rivera has never had it easy. After losing her own mother when she was only seven years old, she bounced around from family to family, never quite fitting in. Because of this, she never got to experience the magic of Christmas the way many of us have been able to.

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When Stephanie had her own children beginning when she was only a teenager, she was struggling to stay afloat financially. Given their limited resources, the family, which eventually grew to include three children, was never able to celebrate Christmas properly. When it came to the choice of whether to keep the lights on or have presents under the Christmas tree, Stephanie always chose the essentials, and the magic of Christmas faded away. 

“My childhood was pretty rough,” Rivera explained. “My mom died when I was 7. I grew up from family to family and each time I kept going it was just a new household I had to go to, so I never really got to do Christmas.”

A Life-Changing Christmas for Stephanie

When an anonymous friend sent a letter describing Stephanie’s troubles to her local Fox station, producers there decided to give Stephanie a break. Anchor Monica Jackson selected Stephanie as the recipient of the channel’s Fox5 Surprise Squad’s Operation North Pole. The program brings holiday cheer and Christmas surprises to deserving families who are living at or under the poverty line. The cast and crew, dressed up as Santa and elves, showed up at Stephanie’s house to surprise her.

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Everyone then sat down together, and Stephanie began opening the gifts the crew had brought for her. She opened tickets to Fox5’s annual family event and a $500 gift card to Albertson’s grocery store. Stephanie then saw that she had also received $2,000 in cash for children’s gifts as well as a $3,000 scholarship, which would allow her to finish her aesthetician program and provide for her family long term. She couldn’t believe her luck.

“Why would you give up in life when you have a whole life to live ahead of you, and you have young ones who look up to you?” said Stephanie. “There’s just no giving up when you’re a mother.”

Her Gratitude Moved Her to Tears


Stephanie wept with abandon and thanked the Fox5 crew over and over again for what they had done for her. She was overwhelmed with emotion. Not only would she be able to give an amazing Christmas to her children, but she was finally experiencing the magic of Christmas for herself! It’s incredible to witness such a moment unfold. It’s always possible to have positive impact on needy people around us – and it’s always worth it! 


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