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Hy-Vee Secret Santa sparks joy with Hot Wheels

Some magical moments are happening at the Hy-Vee in Indianola, where an anonymous donor is gifting Hot Wheels to children at the store.

INDIANOLA, Iowa — The importance of spreading kindness and not taking credit for it.

That's the message behind a fun surprise for some kids at grocery checkouts in Indianola.

The so-called year-round Secret Santa is sharing his act of generosity in the hopes to inspire you to do something from your heart. 

The magical moments happen at a Hy-Vee in Indianola, where something special is happening: a Hot Wheels toy is gifted to a child by someone who stays anonymous.

It's the cashiers that are in charge.

Malinda McCrory watches how kids are doing in the store before she offers a toy.

“If the kids are behaving while they’re here, I always ask the parent first because sometimes parents don’t want things but I’ll ask the parent and then say, ‘I’ve got a present for you’ and they just grin from ear to ear.”

This gift started about six years ago by someone who simply wanted to spread kindness

“I pick ones that I like just in case I end up keeping them. I hand them to the cashier and they get the honor of handing them out,” said the so-called Secret Santa. He says he buys Hot Wheels toys once a week for a lucky child. 

“I do it with intention,” he explained.

These days, it’s extra special as the pandemic interrupted cashier checkouts. For six months, no hot wheels were given out.

Today, the joy spreads once again at several stores.

“One of the cashiers told me that they gave a kid a car out, and the kid freaked, loved it. Next time they saw the kid, this kid had it with them. It was their favorite thing, ever,” the Secret Santa told Local 5. “There’s no judgment happening,” he continued. “I don’t see who gets the car. So yeah. Everybody’s equal under Hot Wheels."

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But this small one-dollar gesture goes beyond kids.

McCrory recalled the first toy she gave a child four years ago: “Oh, my word. It was amazing."

Now, thousands of Hot Wheels later, there is a shared excitement between the cashiers and Secret Santa. 

“We see him once a week and we always know, we always smile,” McCrory said. “I love it, and it’s usually the parents that get so excited, they’re like, ‘Really?! We don’t have to pay for it?’ And we’re like, ‘No, somebody gave it to us and wanted you to have it as a deserving child is usually one that’s been behaving while they’re in the store.'"

Local 5 captured the moment a cashier surprised Maria Bowlin's son with a toy.

“We teach our kids to give without letting anybody know it was from them so to have that done in return was actually pretty awesome, pretty refreshing,” said Bowlin.

For Bowlin, this is a full-circle moment.

“It’s a little emotional,” she said. “I know it shouldn’t be a big deal, but it is because I think it solidifies the very teachings we’re teaching our kids. That giving to others and how much of a difference it makes in someone’s life, because you have no idea what’s going on with everybody, so little things like that become big things. So I think, to me, it was pretty great to see somebody have that same love and compassion towards my own kid. It brought joy to him all day. He actually said, ‘I think I’ll start a collection now!’ And that car went all over the inside of my car he was zooming it everywhere!”

The ripple effect from this small toy is spreading.

This year-round Secret Santa also wants the cashiers to know that they are appreciated.

“Thank you,” he said. “Thank you for being part of it.”

And that cashier appreciation is also growing.

“I think covid kind of made us all step back a little bit and keep our space but definitely reminds us that they need as much interaction with people as much as we do,” Bowlin said. “And I think it’ll spark us to keep going in the line with cashiers now.”

This Secret Santa hopes you will see his heart behind the little toy.

“It’s not about me. It’s about the message,” he said. “It’s about the act of giving and doing something kind for kindness' sake without a reward. And we need more of that in the world.”

Because you never know what joy you can create.

Bowlin agrees. 

“One dollar or something free I think has the ability to make a huge impact on people. I mean, it changed his entire day," she said. "I think a simple, kind gesture of a Hot Wheels car, telling somebody they look awesome that day, they’re doing great with their kids, anything can really spark a response in other people and change their attitude and their mood and then they go on and it moves forward no matter what.”

The Secret Santa plans to gift kids Hot Wheels for as long as he lives. 

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