From WAY members with love this Christmas

December 2023

WAY volunteer Tracey shares the story of how WAY Widowed and Young’s Secret Santa initiative came about – this year she is organising for more than 170 gifts to be sent out to WAY members’ children across the UK, helping to share a little WAY love at Christmas.

When I was widowed back in 2013, I returned home from Pakistan with two suitcases, around £1,000 and a two-year-old son. I had lost everything and had it not been for the love of my family, friends and total strangers, my child and I would have suffered another trauma… homelessness and poverty. That first Christmas was hard. I didn’t want to celebrate and I certainly couldn’t afford any big gifts, so when a stranger came with a huge storage container of toys for my son, I cried; and when neighbours, friends and family bought him toys, I cried more. I felt the love and desire to help from everyone.

Financially, it has been a struggle and whilst I am fortunate to have a job, I still remember that first Christmas and I wanted to help other people feel the love of others following one of the hardest traumas they have faced… the loss of a partner. I started an adult Secret Santa back in 2017; this was to let the adults know that at least one person thought of them and wanted to make them smile. 

In 2018, I took over the children’s Secret Santa initiative to give gifts to WAY members’ children. I had 74 children enrolled in that year and 128 gifts pledged. As the children’s Secret Santa project grew, I needed help with the Adults’ Secret Santa, and was amazed at the offers from other WAY members to take on this task and I appreciated support from Corrina and others.

Whilst the children’s Secret Santa is open to all of WAY’s children, I especially wanted to help those WAY members who were struggling financially as I get it… I really do! Having lost so much, knowing there are people out there who care enough to buy gifts for our children is just… goosebumps. 

When I first started the Secret Santa, I was overwhelmed by the number of people who wanted to buy gifts, many expecting nothing in return.

The motivation to keep going is literally the smiles, just knowing that I, and my fellow WAYers, have helped WAY families all over the UK smile, if only for a minute.

That is priceless and worth the stressful task of arranging the 137 Santas sending gifts to 177 children this year.

Corrina, who runs WAY’s Secret Santa for adults, takes up the story…


I first took part in the WAY Secret Santa in December 2019, eight months after my husband passed away. The pain of that first Christmas was hard to explain. One of the most painful things for me was seeing the displays of gifts in shops – knowing what I would have bought for my husband, and what he would have bought me, if circumstances were different.  

When Tracey contacted me in November 2019 with the details of my Secret Santa recipient, it didn’t magically take that pain away. My eyes and heart were still drawn towards the gifts I would have bought, but I found distraction in looking for a gift for my WAY recipient. It was a welcome distraction, looking for something for someone I didn’t know but who, like me, would need to find reasons to smile at Christmas. My twins also took part in the children’s Secret Santa and it helped them to know there were other children just like them, who would be missing a beloved parent at Christmas.  

On Christmas Day itself, the presents we received – bought with love and care by fellow WAY members – meant so much. Those presents told us we were not alone, and there was a community that thought of us and cared for us. My children say, “those presents mean there are people like us, showing compassion for us, and that means something” and “Christmas is a family thing, and people in WAY have lost family, and we all know Christmas is hard when you have lost family – but we can help each other”.  That’s what WAY is all about.

In 2022, I volunteered to organise the Secret Santa for adults. I wanted to give something back to the WAY community, and I especially wanted to help Tracey. She had single-handedly organised the children’s Secret Santa and the adult Secret Santa for several years, as well as organising the Secret Squirrel for children in lockdown. I figured she could do with some help! I wanted to help Tracey because she has given so much to WAY members.

Tracey organised these events without complaint and she made it look easy – it’s not easy! It takes a lot of time to organise, but it’s worth it.  

There’s a very ‘Christmas magic’ feeling when you get to late December and the delivery notes start arriving, sometimes followed by lovely photos of presents chosen to delight the recipients. Messages that say, ‘please tell my Santa they got it just right!’. 

Helping with the Secret Santa makes me feel a bit like a Christmas elf, and it helps me find the magic of Christmas again. This year there are 70 people taking part in the adult Secret Santa – that’s 70 people who will now receive a gift that has been chosen with them in mind. That’s special!

If you're struggling over the festive period, please know you are not alone. The WAY community is here to support you.

Donate Now

Your donations are always welcome.


Some of our members will be sharing their tips and how they cope with grief and loss during the holidays in our #12WAYSofChristmas

We will be sharing them daily on our social media pages from 20 December through to New Year.