For years, Dayami – an 8-year-old from Nogales – has attached her Christmas list to Santa to a balloon. This year, she did the same and the note landed in the hands of Randy Heiss, who decided to spread a little holiday cheer.
Heiss first spotted the balloon in early December as he hiked behind his ranch in Patagonia, Arizona. Initially, upon seeing the red balloon, Heiss thought he should throw it away. But when he saw a piece of paper attached to it, he realized that it was a child’s Christmas wish list. Written in Spanish, Heiss who isn’t fluent in the language didn’t understand exactly what it said, so he asked his wife, who can speak Spanish, to help him decipher what the young girl – whose name appeared on the other side – wanted. The list asked for art supplies, clothes, slime, and more.
“We now have friends for life. And, for a day, that border fence with its concertina wire melted away.”
— Connor Ryan (@connortryan) December 22, 2018
Though Dayami didn’t give him too many clues, Randy was determined to figure out who had written the note. He assumed the note came from Nogales. “Based on the prevailing wind, I was pretty doggone sure that’s where it came from,” he told The Washington Post.
He started by putting out a call on Facebook, hoping that his friends in Nogales would have a lead. But a few days went by and he heard nothing. Randy worried he wouldn’t be able to have the presents ready for Christmas, so he decided to reach out to Radio XENY, a station based in Nogales. The station contacted him shortly after he sent his message and, through the help of his wife, explained to host Cesar Barron that he was looking for Dayami and her family.
Soon after, he woke up and saw he had a message from the radio station, which had found Dayami and her family. The station wanted to arrange a meeting between Heiss and Dayami. “It just changed my entire day,” Heiss said “Instead of going back to my office in Bisbee, I went with my wife to Walmart.”
Randy and his wife bought everything on the list – except for the Enchantimals dollhouse, which was sold out – and grabbed some extra toys because they learned Dayami had a 4-year-old sister named Ximena. And they they drove to the Radio XENY offices to deliver the gifts to the young girls. But so as not to ruin Santa for the young girls, Randy and his wife posed as Santa’s helpers. “Their eyes were wide open with wonder,” he said. “Like, ‘Oh my gosh, this really did work!'”
Randy and his wife lost their only son nine years ago, and they have no grandchildren. “Being around children at Christmastime has been absent in our lives,” he said. “It’s been kind of a gaping hole in our Christmas experience… We now have friends for life. And, for a day, that border fence with its concertina wire melted away.”