‘Secret Santa’ picks up tab for entire layaway at Walmart

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DERBY, Vt. (CNN) – Thanksgiving isn’t even here yet, but the holiday spirit is already going strong in Vermont.

A secret Santa Claus bestowed early Christmas cheer on some Walmart shoppers. The mystery man selflessly paid for strangers’ layaway purchases.

“I don’t even think I can find the words to say,” said shopper Julie Gates.

She went to pick up a package Thursday at the store, when she overheard a conversation while waiting in line.

“He came up to the man in front of me and said, ‘Either I am going to pay for it now or I am going to pay for it later,'” she said.

Then he turned to her and asked if she was paying for an item on layaway.

“He said, ‘Why don’t you run and get what you want now and come back here?'” she said.

Gates was skeptical but putting items on layaway is why she was there in the first place.

“So I came back and he was standing there waiting. There was no one left,” she said.

He paid for everything.

“This can’t be, who can afford to pay for everyone’s layaway? And he said, ‘Santa Claus can,’” Gates said.

The storage room is filled floor to ceiling with Christmas gifts. Electronics, toys, whatever it is, and they are all paid for.

Walmart couldn’t say how much the mystery shopper spent or how many people went home with free gifts, and there was only one photo of the man.

Many said this is more than just free Christmas gifts – it’s making sure people can now pay for what’s important. Tammy Desautels said money has been tough since her husband broke his foot.

“It really helped me a lot,” Desautels said.

She said gifts are now one less thing to worry about going into the cold winter months.

“I really have a feeling that there is hope for mankind or whatever – there’s still good people out there,” Desautels said.

Recipients were in shock, including Gates.

“I get goosebumps thinking that – that is the true magic of Christmas – that’s the Christmas spirit walking amongst us,” she said.

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