When the Sumner Downtown Association set up its table during the 16th annual Bridge Lighting in The Old Cannery Furniture Warehouse parking lot, we never imagined how deeply one little girl would be touched this holiday season.
For several years, SDA has held a drawing for two Christmas stockings during the annual Bridge Lighting event. This year, Fred Meyer contributed two very beautiful, toy-filled stockings for our drawing along with Sock Monkeys from Simple Tidings & Kitchen and two stuffed animals from AJ’s Treasure Shack.
Just after the bridge lighting and fireworks, I stood alongside Santa Claus as he drew out two names — one boy and one girl. Each child was elated to have had their name called and have their photo taken with Santa.
Makinley Warren, 8, is described as an “old soul” by her mother. This last year has come with some unexpected hardships, ones that would easily dull the light of the holidays for any child. Earlier this year, her parents had to lease out their condo, and in doing so, they found it difficult to find a new place to live. It took six months of residing in a hotel and the depletion of their savings before that new home became a reality.
Makinley is the youngest of four siblings. Her sisters, ages 18, 19 and 21, all moved away from home this year as well.
“She went from being surrounded to becoming an only child,” said Sonjia, Makinley’s mom.
Sonjia also has been going through several medical treatments, and it’s Makinley who has held her mom’s hand in support during those visits.
Just a short time ago, Makinley’s dad was informed his full-time job would be reduced to a less-than-part-time position, and that meant a significant decrease in salary.
When faced with that news, Makinley responded: “Daddy, I don’t need Christmas presents. I would like to have chores so that I can earn money.”
“Why, Makinley?” her parents asked.
“So I can help pay for our home,” she replied. “That’s all we really need.”
Such a generous and unassuming comment could only come from the heart and out of the mouth of a child.
Makinley has a strong faith, and her mom refers to her as an “angel on earth.” For her birthday, Makinley wanted only one thing — to have the words “God Rocks” on her birthday cake. She is the little girl who always gives.
How many little children do you know who thank every soldier or veteran they see for their service?
Makinley is a child who opens doors for others, gives her toys to the less fortunate, will assist anyone she sees who needs help.
Sonjia is certain of one thing.
“This little girl is so good-natured to all,” she said.
When Makinley came to the bridge lighting, she was given several opportunities to have a photo taken with Santa, and she declined each time. In fact, her mom was just happy Makinley wanted to go to the festival at all.
When her name was announced as the winner of one of the SDA Christmas stockings, she was again asked if she’d like her picture taken. She wanted only to speak with Santa, and that eventually led to her photograph with the man in red.
Her mother said Santa couldn’t have been kinder as she watched Makinley chat away with him. Then Sonjia saw the unexpected ... a smile on her daughter’s face. Sonjia revealed the reason behind that smile. It came from a few simple sentences shared by Makinley.
“Mama, I know that was the real Santa. His breath smelled of peppermints! He wanted to prove he was real, mama, and now I am so excited for Christmas.”
Makinley’s mom thought that was prize enough and felt it a blessing to have her daughter picked to win a stocking.
“She came home flushed with excitement and convinced it was Santa’s doing,” Sonjia said.
Although that doesn’t change their struggles, it made their hearts burst.
Sonjia thanked SDA for helping to re-energize their little girl’s holiday spirit.
“To you, this may be once a year, but to our family, this was a lifetime moment we’ll never forget!” Sonjia said.Laurie Miller is the executive director of the Sumner Downtown Association.