Suzanne Lea suffered a great loss, but what she received was a true Christmas miracle.
- Posted on Dec 8, 2014
In April 2008, Suzanne Lea suffered a devastating loss when her husband Bryan died of a heart attack. Struggling with how to cope with the loss of her life partner and the father of her two young boys, Matthew and James, the holidays that year seemed unbearable. "We didn’t even have a way to hang our Christmas lights without Bryan," she told Yahoo! Parenting.
That December, Lea opened her door one day to a bowl full of pears. An odd anonymous gift to be sure, but one the mom appreciated and believed was from another concerned neighbor, like the casseroles she'd been receiving. The next day, another anonymous gift landed on the family's doorstep, and soon, the 12 Days of Christmas had come to life for Lea and her two boys. Daily gifts poured in, all based on that favorite Christmas tune and all serving to heal the loss of a beloved husband, father and friend. She later discovered the gifts came from members of her church.
"That was huge because when you’re hit with a big tragedy, the darkness is so overwhelming inside of you that it doesn’t let you go,” Lea said. “You just want to know that you’re going to have a full life again. And that’s what happened on that 12th day. It gave us something to believe in.”
But the giving didn't stop there. Inspired by her community's generous act, Lea carried on the tradition herself every Christmas season, giving to those she saw in need. Each year the gifts got bigger and the number of families receiving them grew until, in 2010, Lea decided to start her own charity that she fittingly named In 12 Days. Her organization aims to help people that she sees going through hard times. Lea's group works with religious organizations, local school boards, sponsors and other charities in order to spread the Christmas cheer each year. Helicopter rides and resort stays are just a couple of gifts they've given to others in the past few years, but it's not just lavish presents Lea hopes to share. "We’re pulling a whole community together," she says.
This year, In 12 Days has a huge campaign in the works; thousands of volunteers, airline tickets for families flying home for the holidays and organized benefit rallies for disabled children are planned each day this week leading up to the group's big benefit on Dec. 13 which will feature Cirque du Soleil performers, stars of the Broadway play Jersey Boys, and the Society Pipes and Drum Band. But what Lea is really excited for is the chance to make a difference in the lives of people who really need a Christmas miracle.
“I’m so proud of what we do,” Lea said. “In 12 Days is a celebration of life that gives you strength to move forward on your own, through grief.”
Read more at Yahoo! Parenting.