Lake Orion family overwhelmed by Christmas surprises

When 42-year-old Tammy Harriman, a mother of three boys, opened the door of her home in Lake Orion on a bright and chilly day, she was overwhelmed by what she saw: a Santa, a crowd of more than 50 people and two trucks loaded with Christmas gifts.

Hers was one of three families selected this year by Yatooma’s Foundation For the Kids. The foundation, with the help of Art’s Van Furniture, helped families like hers with Christmas gifts to make a healthy difference in their struggling lives.

Harriman has lost two husbands. Her first husband, who was the father of her eldest son, 17, died in an automobile accident in 1994. The second husband, who fathered two boys, a 12-year-old and a 9-month-old, died of brain tumor. He died a week after her youngest boy was born.

“I am just overwhelmed. I wasn’t expecting trucks. I don’t know what I was expecting. I am so grateful to them,” Harriman said, as volunteers were walking through her home unloading the stuff they brought for her.

Outside kids and their parents were singing Christmas songs as part of their surprise to the families the foundation selects every year. Matt Friedman was among them and is also the member of Yatooma’s Foundation for the Kids. He said he personally feels happy to take his two daughters to this annual event.

“Each year we select three families who really have extreme situations and try to help them surprising them just over the top Christmas experience,” Friedman said.

Yatooma’s Foundation for the Kids is a non-profit organization aimed at helping families with children who have suddenly lost one or both parents. It’s founder and president Norman A. Yatooma was 20 when he lost his father. He then grew up with his mother and three younger brothers.

“Our mission is to bring tenderness to tragedy and turn tragedy into triumph for the families of kids who have lost a parent, by providing practical, professional, and personal assistance at each stage of the grieving and recovery process,” Yatooma, a father of three, and an attorney with a private law practice, says on his website about the foundation he started on the 2003 Father’s Day.

The other two families that the foundation helped this year lived in Birmingham and Southfield. The kids in those two families too had lost their fathers and were struggling with their moms.

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