Last Christmas, Sale discovered it had its very own Secret Santa.

Thanks to COVID, all of us have struggled in one way or another, mentally, physically or financially.

For many of those who were hit hard financially by the pandemic, the only way to ensure their children would have a gift to open on Christmas Day was by using layby.

On the last Saturday of November 2021, almost exactly one month until Christmas, Sale’s own Secret Santa made her way down Raymond Street, stopping into Toyworld Sale and Toys Galore & More.

Toyworld Sale. Photo: Zoe Askew

Kerryn, better known as ‘Secret Santa’, approached the counters at Toyworld Sale and Toys Galore & More with a generous gesture of good faith that would change Christmas for many unsuspecting families.

On the morning of November 27, Secret Santa paid off all the laybys at the two stores.

“I had seen a couple of stories from around the country of people doing the same thing, and I just thought it was a great idea,” Kerryn said.

“It just gives people a bit more money for Christmas dinner and other things they might need.”

At the start of November, Secret Santa had donated a few dozen boxes of brand new toys to the Salvation Army, but hearing stories on the news of people paying off strangers’ laybys around the country inspired her.

“It was just another way to give back,” she said.

“I just want to give what I can to those who otherwise might not get things.

“The more you give and the more good you do, the more you get back, you know,” Kerryn added.

And get back, she did.

Sale’s Secret Santa has received an abundance of thank yous in the form of letters, chocolates, flowers, TattsLotto tickets, paintings and drawings from extremely appreciative families.

When Secret Santa paid off the entirety of her store’s laybys, Toyworld Sale owner Sue Tatterson couldn’t believe it.

“When I called the customers to tell them, they just couldn’t believe it,” Ms Tatterson said.

“People were amazed, completely blown away.”

“I organised to get a big card, and everyone whose laybys she had paid came in and signed it before we sent it off.”

Toys Galore & More on Raymond Street in Sale. Photo: Zoe Askew

Toys Galore & More owner Michelle Blake said they wrote down Secret Santa’s address when she came in and paid the laybys so that the customers could send their thank yous for such a generous gift.

“We’ve been sending cards and chocolates and all sorts of things right up until Easter,” Ms Blake said.

Sale’s Secret Santa says the appreciation she has received from people has utterly blown her away.

“I certainly didn’t do it expecting anything in return,” she said.

“I was even shocked after receiving the first letter, and I thought that would be it, just a one-off nice thing.

“But I have been receiving letters and things for the last five months.

“I have even gotten paintings from the kids, you know, like the little finger paintings they do. It’s very sweet.”

For Kerryn, the entire experience has been surreal.

“I keep having to pinch myself,” she laughed.

“I’ve more or less have been someone who has been in the shadows a lot and hasn’t really put myself out there, so it is just so hard to imagine they are talking about me.”

“I just have to read the letters over and over again and remind myself that they are.”

Earlier this month, Kerryn arrived at the Gippsland Times with a handwritten letter thanking everyone who has sent her Christmas cards, thank you notes and gifts over the past five months, a gesture that has truly touched her heart.

“I just really want people to know that they haven’t wasted their time writing and sending all the messages out,” she said.

“I’ve got them, and I will keep them forever.”