Kaylynn Pearse and her family still hadn't set up a Christmas tree this season, and until this past Sunday she was pretty sure they wouldn't have much to put beneath it even if they did.
"There's no Christmas decorations in the house right now," Pearse said on Monday. "That's not normal, we always decorate after The Electric Lights Parade in Kenai. We always do it that weekend, but not this year."
This year Pearse said she and her husband, Andy Lynn, were just trying to figure out how they were going to make the payments on their vehicles and afford a holiday for their kids, Andrew, 14; and Rita, 8.
Pearse said her husband, who operates heavy equipment, is typically only employed seasonally, while she's been out of work through most of the fall.
"I just went back to work in December and I won't see a paycheck until after Christmas," she said.
She and her husband were trying to sell off a snowmachine to generate some money to pay bills and hopefully buy gifts, she said.
Otherwise, she was expecting a less than cheery holiday for her two kids.
"My mom is disabled and my dad's retired, no one really had money to help us," Pearse said. "We have a friend helping with groceries but it's just hard on everybody. No one has money to spare."
To top it all off, Pearse said Rita has been experiencing dizzy spells almost daily and bladder infections almost once a month.
On Sunday night Pearse was driving home on Gaswell Road after dropping Rita and Andy off at the Kenai Municipal Airport where they were catching a flight to Anchorage for doctor appointments.
In the middle of the dark road, Pearse said her headlights lit up a large black object.
She got out of her truck to find a sled, the type that's pulled behind an ATV or snowmachine, piled high with Wal-Mart bags full of stuff.
Pearse said it looked like someone's holiday shopping spree.
She rummaged through the bags hoping to find a receipt with a name, to no avail. She said she was also concerned because she didn't want to be accused of stealing anything.
She put the sled in the back of her truck and took it home.
On Monday morning she brought the sled full of goods to the state troopers and posted the item on KSRM radio's Tradio, an online classified site.
That same day she got a call from an appreciative Mike Young.
Young, who recently moved into a place on Center Avenue, off of Echo Lake Road, said he'd been in Anchorage over the weekend shopping mostly for himself, but doing a little gift shopping as well.
On the way home, he and the friend he'd gone to Anchorage with stopped at Soldotna Trustworthy Hardware and Fishing for the sled and piled everything into the back of her truck.
The truck however, has "tailgate issues," he said.
About an hour and a half after getting back to his place, Young said he went out to the vehicle and found the sled and everything in it missing.
He immediately headed back down the road, but said he had a feeling right away that something so big probably wouldn't stay parked in the middle of a road for very long.
Later that night he contacted the Soldotna Police.
The next morning he said he continued his search in the daylight, put up an announcement on Tradio and later contacted the troopers.
He said his friend whose truck the sled fell out of felt horrible and was already figuring out how to repay him.
A little after lunch, that stopped being an issue.
"I was pulling back into work when my phone beeped and I had a voicemail that someone had found it," Young said.
Mike called the woman, Pearse, back.
"She said she knew what it'd be like to lose her Christmas and was looking for a miracle," he said. "I told her she found her miracle on the side on the road."
Young picked the sled up from the troopers later that day, and said he's now looking to do some holiday shopping for Pearse's two children.
"I felt guilty spending that much on myself," he said. "It turned out to be a good thing, now I can spend something on someone else and feel a little less like Scrooge for spending $322.65 on myself."
Young said when he found the sled missing he wasn't entirely upset about it.
"The first thing I thought was I hope someone got it that needs it," he said. "I was hoping that the person who found it would need it. She (Pearse) didn't need what was in the sled, but she needed a Christmas miracle."
The story hardly went unnoticed by radio listeners, at least not by one.
Sue Coons, of Kenai, said she was listening to Tradio on Monday when she first heard Young's announcement that he'd lost his stuff out the back of his truck around Gaswell.
A little while later she said she heard Pearse say that she was looking for someone who might have lost something on Gaswell.
"It just infatuated me," Coons said. "I don't know, I just felt so sorry for this man who lost it, and then this lady comes out of the clear blue sky and I just wanted to tell her how terrific she was."
So she did, and that's when she learned of Pearse's plight.
"As I got to talking about it being such a wonderful thing that she did, you just don't hear of that much anymore, I said, 'You know what, is your family set for Christmas?' And she said not really," Coons said.
Pearse's situation struck a chord with Coons.
"I just let it loose started crying for her, I get so emotional about it, we've been through these hard times ourselves," she said. "She was so honest and you don't run across many people like this."
Coons said she wanted to make sure Pearse was rewarded for her good deed.
"I was thinking, it's going to be a horrible Christmas if the kids didn't have presents," she said.
Coons grew up in West Texas in a house with six girls and six boys and knows what a meager holiday is like. She admitted that one year she was accidentally forgotten and knew how it felt to not have a present under the tree.
So Coons said she asked if it'd be OK to help out, and Pearse obliged, telling her that Rita enjoyed sewing and coloring while Andrew liked playing videogames and snowmachining.
Now Coons said she's on the hunt for Christmas presents as well, looking to gather scraps of cloth, scissors and thread for Rita, and used Xbox 360 games and winter clothing for Andrew among other things.
"I know there are tons of families that won't have Christmas and I wish I could help out all of them, but you do what you can," she said.
She's hoping too she said, that she'll get some community support in her effort and said she'll take whatever she can get.
"I feel so sorry for them and I feel like my hands are tied," she said.
For Pearse, the whole experience has been overwhelming.
"It's just a miracle for them," she said of her kids. "It's a little innocent act and it's turned into something really big. I even posted on Facebook on Sunday asking for a miracle so I could have presents. I did a lot of crying yesterday."
Coons can be contacted at home at 283-8300.
Dante Petri can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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