Children who lost fathers get epic holiday surprise, trip to Disney World
Two families of children who lost parents received a huge holiday surprise on their doorsteps on Saturday, Dec. 16.
Yatooma’s Foundation For The Kids, founded by Metro Detroit attorney Norman Yatooma after his own father was mur
dered in 1993, delivered boxes of toys, clothes, electronics and more to families in Waterford and Pontiac. The nonprofit offers emotional, financial and educational assistance to families of children who have lost one or both parents to death.
The delivery was a surprise for both families, as Santa (played by Yatooma) knocked on their doors to draw them outside.
Boxes of wrapped gifts and a giant check to pay all of the family’s winter bills greeted both mothers as they ushered their children into the crowd of holiday helpers, there to assist with the unwrapping.
Dolls, dresses, board games, toys, new bicycles, Xbox One’s and games, winter clothes, cowboy hats and more greeted the children as they unwrapped each gift.
And for the Hale family of Waterford, an extra special gift was planned— a trip to Disney World.
Kim Hale, mother of eight-year-old Sophia and 17-year-old Donnie, who has high-functioning autism, is a breast cancer survivor. The children lost their father, Michael Hoadley, five years ago to gun violence in Flint. Both maternal grandparents and Hale’s sister also recently died.
Hale wiped away tears as she watched her children bound down the driveway to where the holiday helpers and the boxes of gifts waited.
“It means so much, my kids have been through so much loss over the last couple of years, and this is a chance for them to be kids and smile and laugh,” Hale said.
The family opened the last large box together as balloons floated into the air, the crowd yelling all at once that famous line: “You’re going to Disney World!”
Hale’s daughter Sophia and her son Donnie embraced their mother among the crowd, laughing and crying from the surprise.
As Santa hoisted Sophia in the air, a loud yelp of glee filled the neighborhood.
“I can’t even put into words how much this means to have them be able to be happy,” Hale said.
For Akita McClerkin of Pontiac, the surprise came at just the right time of year.
Her children, Laylya, four, and Davion, 11, lost their father, Bondaryl McCall Jr., to gun violence in 2015. A drawn-out court case put extra pressure on the family.
McClerkin said her daughter is having a tough time in school this time of year because she sees other children with their fathers coming to class.
“She misses her dad,” McClerkin said. “But this feels awesome, to see their little smiling faces. They’re so excited. It’s emotional, but it’s a good emotion.”
After unwrapping the gifts, both kids received new bikes, as Santa proceeded to challenge Davion to a race. Rounding the corner with a smile plastered on his face and Santa trailing close behind, the crowd cheered, some comforting the mother as she watched her children take part in the holiday extravaganza.
“This means a lot to us, it’s remarkable, it’s overwhelming. It’s one of the best Christmas’ for them ever,” McClerkin said.