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'12 Days' brightens Christmas for local families

Twelve families that have undergone recent hardships will have a brighter holiday than originally planned, thanks to the 2007 "12 Days of Christmas" program.

Christmas came early Saturday afternoon when recipient families received their gifts at the headquarters of Radio Merced on West Main Street.

This is the third year the program has been offered in Merced and Stanislaus counties. Watching people receive gifts, often much more than they expected, was an incredibly touching experience, said Patrick J. Merrill, marketing manager for the sponsoring County Bank -- Capital Corp of the West.

Chad Gammage, general sales manager for Radio Merced, said the goal of "12 Days of Christmas" is to provide essentials that are a bit more lasting than some other holiday giveaways.

About 20 clients of the radio stations contributed more than $12,000 in cash, sizable discounts or merchandise for participating families, singled out from hundreds of nomination letters received since Thanksgiving. The program was promoted on Oldies 97.5 and 106.3 HANK FM radio stations.

Merrill said he was particularly touched by one of the situations.

Two weeks before a Merced woman's mobile home burned down, she took in a stray Chihuahua, a pet which ultimately saved her life by warning her about the fire.

The woman, who had no insurance, escaped with only the clothes she was wearing, along with her newfound canine friend.

The woman is now staying with neighbors. Some people were caught looting her burned-out home, and city officials gave her only 72 hours to clean up the lot. A local church group stepped in to help her meet the cleanup deadline, Merrill said.

The County Bank/Radio Merced program provided Christmas dinner for the woman and the family that has taken her in during her time of need. The dog received a gift basket from a pet supply store and County Bank provided a $500 gift card for essentials to help her get back on her feet.

After this wish was granted on-air, a local pet grooming company called in to offer their services, offering to do a full grooming for the dog, Merrill said.

Gammage said radio station clients contributed anything from $50 checks to "incredible discounts" on needed items. Families received clothing, coats and shoes, refrigerators, a washer and dryer, grocery or gasoline gift cards, a crib, diapers and baby clothes, Christmas dinners at local restaurants.

One recipient is raising his grandchildren, underwent open heart surgery and has thyroid cancer. He was given a recliner to help with his healing and his grandkids got gifts, too.

"There were a lot of touching stories. Saturday's party turned out really well," Gammage said.

Merrill said he would meet each afternoon with Gammage and other radio station personnel to go over nominations. At that point, radio executives would meet with its clients to get donations.

The families would be notified about their selection the next morning.

Associate Editor Doane Yawger can be reached at

209 385-2485 or

dyawger@mercedsun-star.com.

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