In December of 1976, a little boy named Craig wrote a heart-wrenching letter to Santa Claus. The little boy’s letter said that he and his sisters’ mother told them that Santa had become lost last year when he was trying to deliver Christmas presents to the family’s house. Craig ensured Santa that he and his little sisters had been good all year, but their mother told them that Santa was going to get lost trying to find their family’s house again. To help Santa find his way, Craig drew a map. Craig signed off his letter affectionately before writing, “P.S. Don’t leave anything for dad because he isn’t here anymore.”
The letter did not make its way to the North Pole but somehow landed in a Seattle restaurant ran by a man named Dick Francisco. Francisco was so touched by the letter he started The Forgotten Children’s Fund (FCF). FCF is a grassroots organization that is ran exclusively by volunteers and donors who give both their time and money to make it so kids who face tough circumstances can still have the warm, merry, and special Christmas they deserve. In 1976, FCF managed to bring Christmas joy to 285 kids in 81 families. Now, the wonderful organization has grown large enough to bring cheer to over 800 families, totaling more than 2,900 children at the end of December.
The families are each carefully selected by FCF. FCF then makes sure they have complete knowledge of each family they assist from the names and ages of the kids, to their clothing sizes and any special needs a family might have. Sometimes, FCF gifts things like donations of groceries or even aids with basic payments on things like electricity or water bills. The FCF currently operates in King County, Lewis County, North Counties (including Skagit, Island, Snohomish and Whatcom Counties) and Chelan Counties of Washington State.
Greg Bakke has been involved with FCF for over 15 years. Just two years ago, he was invited to be on the Board for both the FCF group and the horse ranch FCF operates on Whidbey Island called M-Bar-C Ranch which gives children with special needs a true cowboy experience, year-round. Bakke says both positions have been very fulfilling. He explained how there are some people that work with FCF year-round while the fund has others that donate nearly their entire month of December at the end of every year to make sure that the people in the Puget Sound area who are less fortunate can still have a good Christmas. Bakke said, “I started out with my two brothers as elves for my dad who was one of FCF’s Santas on Christmas Eve.” Bakke and his brothers would wheel around in cars and busses delivering presents as Santa and elves from the North Pole on December 24 to families who could not otherwise easily afford some of the gift-giving that has become synonymous with the Christmas holiday. “It, of course, was extra special because it was something we did as a family: dad, brothers, aunt, and uncle as our truck drivers, and even cousins filling out our team,” said Bakke. Each personalized delivery by FCF’s Santa team includes: a winter jacket, three toys, two books, a hat, a pair of gloves, socks, a stocking stuffed with goodies, blankets, and some Christmas food items for the whole family.
Sadly, Bakke’s father was diagnosed with cancer making it so his role as Santa became more and more difficult as years stretched further. Bakke said, “My brothers and I rotated taking over the ‘Big Job’.” Over the last couple here’s, his brothers have moved to Western Washington and Arizona, but Bakke has still been able to donate his time to playing Santa with his wife, Sarah, as one of his elves. Even Bakke’s niece and nephew help when they can, and he has cousins who are continuing playing the roles as even more of Santa’s little helpers. Bakke’s own kids, who are 11, 4 and 1, know him as “Santa Daddy” who helps the real Santa get to families that need it most. “Most importantly it gives them a glimpse of what Christmas really is,” said Bakke.
He said that there is nothing better than the feeling he gets when he walks up to a house—arms full—and then notices the kids looking out the window, anticipating his visit.
“At that point, we are not from The Forgotten Children’s Fund; we truly are Santa and his elves visiting from the North Pole! I have made lifelong friends who are also involved, and I am very grateful for each of them and their generosity.”