Feel Good Friday: Virtual Santa visits and food for the soul

Feel Good Friday
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It’s that time of the week we like to give you a recap of some of the most uplifting stories over the last week. Here’s Erin Ivory’s Feel Good Roundup! 

Starting off with the big guy in red. Santa and Mrs. Claus have found a way to get around the pandemic restrictions through visits with kids over Zoom. The online visits have allowed kids to still get a little Facetime and pass along those Christmas wishes.

“We get to visit with them and the kids are excited to see us,” Santa said. “We already have a little information about them through this scroll. The elves have given me notes about the family.”

Santa and Mrs. Claus are taking appointments for 5, 10 or even 20 minute chats from now until Christmas Eve. You can book your own virtual visit at  chicagozoomsanta.com

Chicagoan Luis Centeno is giving back to an organization that once blessed his own family many years ago.

Centeno is known as the owner of Fit Results, a highly successful gym with locations in the South Loop and Logan Square.

What many people don’t know is that he spent eight years of his life incarcerated on drug charges. It was during that time that the organization Angel Tree stepped in to purchase Christmas gifts for his own children when he could not be with them. 

“All the way until my release date, I was blessed to be able to provide those presents to my kids all thanks to the Angel Tree program,” Centeno said. “And I said to myself right before coming home that I have to be able to give back somehow.”

For the fourth year in a row, Centeno has held fundraisers at his gyms for Angel Tree, raising thousands of dollars to make sure the other 2.7 million children with a mom or dad in jail still have gifts under the tree on Christmas morning.

Erin Ivory will have more of Centeno’s story of triumph and determination to pay it forward  next week Wednesday on WGN. 

A mother of a high school senior came up with this Facebook Group called Sprinkle a Senior. 

Feeling bad that her own son was missing out on so many events like games, prom and senior outings, she created a page encouraging people to post a little about their own high school senior so that others could “sprinkle”  them with a small gift and words of encouragement. 

Since starting the page a few weeks ago, hundreds of high school seniors have been receiving gifts mailed to them from all over the country. It may not change their circumstances but it has brought countless smiles to the soon to be grads receiving these tokens of kindness. 

Finally, a story out of Des Plaines where one restaurant’s good deed has morphed into an outpouring of community support for those struggling financially during COVID.

Family owned, American Wild Burger was one of the restaurants adversely impacted by the pandemic but it didn’t stop them from giving away 50 free lunches consecutively for two days last spring. They wanted to continue but revenue was just too tight; that’s until an unexpected offer.

“An anonymous donor said we want to pay for a third day,” Sylvia Talavera said. “I just started crying. We couldn’t believe someone would pick up a third day of lunches. Then other people from the community said, ‘I want to do a fourth day. I want to fifth day.’ And so the kind of kept going.” 

American Wildburger has been passing out free lunches ever since for eight months, every Friday afternoon.

Talavera said it’s been nothing short of a domino effect of generosity.

Another local restaurant down the block, Sunrise Grill just  announced that they will be doing the same weekly free lunch giveaway starting next Wednesday.

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