A little girl's letter to Santa launched by a red balloon was found miles away by a stranger who, sensing a connection with its author, wanted to find her and make her Christmas wish come true.
Joie, 5, had written the letter, tied it to a balloon and set it free last week along with the rest of her kindergarten class in Chula Vista, just south of San Diego.
“Dear Santa, I would like to have a mermaid doll with a bow for Christmas. Thank you, Love, Joie,” the letter read.
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Defense contract negotiator Terry Hardin was leaving work on Dec. 17 when he noticed a red balloon with something tied to it floating down from the sky.
He watched it travel to the ground and into the parking lot. It took three to five minutes, he said.
“I walked over, so interested and intrigued as to what it was,” he recalled.
He said when he noticed the name of the child at the end of the letter, he paused. His mother, Joie Britt, had passed away in August 2012.
“It put a chill up my spine,” Hardin said.
He and his mother weren’t on the best of terms at the time of her death. He now admits he was very angry with her.
Now, he believes that in some way the kindergartner’s letter was meant for him.
“This literally came from Heaven to make things right,” he said.
Hardin’s wife, Angel, went to work trying to track down the little girl so the couple could fulfill the wish.
She sent emails to news organizations, including NBC 7 San Diego, asking for help.
“We don't know who this girl is or how this balloon got to be over downtown, but somehow I feel like I really want this girl to get her doll,” she wrote.
San Diego-area talk show host Mike Slater enlisted the help of his listeners and soon, the author of the letter was found.
On Thursday, Hardin met Joie face to face in her classroom at St. Rose of Lima.
He handed her the gift – a "Little Mermaid" doll complete with bow. Joie was shy, but with encouragement from her classmates, she quickly unwrapped the gift.
She and her family later posed for a picture with Hardin, who said he is enjoying the enthusiasm the story has generated around the U.S. and even overseas.
He appreciates the nice comments he’s seeing posted beneath the news articles online.
Watch the video of the classroom receiving gifts below: