An imaginative Auburn girl reached for the skies to send a long-distance letter to Santa.
Five-year-old Helen Berence Reyes Cardenas tied a message to two helium-filled balloons and sent it free at her cousin’s nighttime birthday party on Dec. 2.
“She said goodbye to the balloons and, ‘I love you, Santa,’ ” her mother, Rosa Elena Cardenas de Reyes, said Thursday through an interpreter, Rosa’s brother Guillermo Reyes Cardenas. “She waved goodbye, hoping they would reach Santa.”
They reached a faraway place, but nothing as remote as the North Pole. The message took a more southerly journey, landing 533 miles away – as the crow flies – in Northern California.
On Wednesday, a ranch hand’s son discovered some debris along the side of a backroad on the family’s remote spread in the heart of Mendocino County. Lane Sanderson, who had just come home from Colorado for the holidays, was riding with his father, Frank, when they came upon a pair of deflated balloons with an attached note still intact.
“We couldn’t read it. It was written in Spanish, but it was clear to us that it was a letter meant for Santa,” said Alvin Dodd Jr., a lumber salesman and neighbor who helps out on the 17,000-acre Shamrock Ranch in Laytonville, Calif., about 100 miles south of Eureka and 150 miles north of San Francisco.
“The letter had a number of pictures of clothes … and sweaters the girl drew,” Dodd said. “We knew it meant something to a little girl.”
A Spanish-speaking ranch hand translated the letter. The note, which Helen wrote with her mother’s help, asked Santa for a doll. It emphasized finding clothes for the girl’s two younger nieces the family is taking care of in its south Auburn home.
The note included Helen’s address and phone number.
The ranch hand called the family in Auburn.
“The mother was touched, crying on the other end (of the phone conversation),” Dodd said.
Rosa added: “I was very much surprised. It’s like a miracle happened, a Christmas miracle.”
Dodd and friends were humbled by the girl’s message.
“All the girl wanted for Christmas was some clothes … because they had no money,” Dodd explained. “All she wanted was some clothes for her nieces.”
Dodd and friends decided to pitch in and help make the girl’s wishes come true.
Julie Sanderson took her daughter shopping this week for toys and clothes for the Auburn family. The Sandersons accepted contributions from the Dodds and ranch hands to send off a care package. UPS is expected to deliver the gifts to Helen’s family Saturday.
“We didn’t know their sizes, so we sort of guessed,” Julie said. “We even got something for the mother.
“Since (the message) came such a long way and (Helen) didn’t ask for anything herself, we just wanted to do something for them,” Julie added. “We’ve been through rough times before, so we understand.”
Helen’s family appreciates the gesture. Rosa and her husband, Guillermo Reyes Romo, are struggling to make ends meet. Rosa hurt her foot and is unable to work. Her husband has been unemployed for part of the year.
“I just want to thank them for all they have done for us,” she said, fighting back tears.
“I didn’t know what to do,” she said. “I always told my daughter we would send a balloon to Santa because that was a tradition when I was little.”
Dodd isn’t about to forget this Christmas tale.
“It’s remarkable that this balloon got here. It’s pretty cool she wound up doing this,” Dodd said. “It’s just amazing.”
For those wishing to help the family, gifts can be sent to: Guillermo Reyes Romo and Rosa Elena Cardenas de Reyes, Forest Villa Manor, No. 76, 4205 Auburn Way S, Auburn, WA, 98092.
Below: Guillermo Reyes Romo and Rosa Elena Cardenas de Reyes, are raising three children, daughter Helen Berence Reyes Cardenas, 5, middle, and nieces Veleriajocleyn Reyes Narcial, far left, and Alexandra Axyri Reyes Narcial, far right.