Four-year-old Emilio could have asked for anything in the world for Christmas. He asked for a jacket.
Heather, 8, is asking for pants or shoes.
Another 8-year-old, Julia, wants nothing but a winter coat.
Other youngsters are asking for blankets, comforters, snow boots, and other 'need items.'
But none of these Rim country children and about 130 others will get their individual Christmas wish without your assistance.
"Help!" is the plaintive wail of Brenda Martell of Santa's List the organization that runs the community's official Angel Tree toy and gift drive.
"The number of people who have registered to receive gifts is way up this year," she said. "We're looking at around 200 more children than we had last year, when we had about 535."
In other words, Martell and her fellow volunteers are looking to please 750 underprivileged local children this Christmas.
"Traditionally, our numbers go up every year, but this is the biggest jump I've seen in the 14 years I've been doing this," Martell said. "I've talked to different folks around town, and it seems there are some ongoing economic issues which have to do with lower-paying jobs and, come Christmastime, that puts people in a crunch."
Martell has also noted a small drop in cash donations this year, which she attributes to Sept. 11.
"People have given to other organizations and now they're at the end of that budget," she said.
But it's the lackluster participation in the Angel Tree program that is her greatest concern, since there are a total of about 130 local children who may be neglected.
Here's how the program works: The area's disadvantaged families have already registered their needs through the Community Christmas program and, during that process, they were asked for special needs or requests.
Those items are written on decorative paper angels and hung on Angel Trees located in the Country Kitchen restaurant, Planet Video, Rim Country Kids and Wal-Mart. Passersby can select one or more angels, purchase the gift that's written on it, and bring the gift back to the Angel Tree location. Distribution of the items will take place Dec. 22 at the Rim Country Middle School Gym, along with other toys and boxes of food.
The high number of unadopted angels is "a real concern for us," Martell said, "because our deadline for the Angel Trees is this Sunday, Dec. 16. So what we're looking for is folks who have been thinking about donating and haven't done it. Now is the time. We need people to get out this Friday, Saturday and Sunday, pick an angel, get the gifts, and return to an Angel Tree site by the end of the day Sunday."
That final day is carved in stone, because "we'll be spending all next week bagging and tagging the items and getting them ready for distribution with their food boxes on time."
One more request:
"We really can't provide 'need items' like clothes through the toy drive," Martell said. "So those are the things we really hope people select and fulfill."
For more information, call Scott Smith, president of Santa's List, at 474-5853.
Other children who need holiday adoption
There is another Christmas toy drive in Payson that is experiencing a distressing lack of donor participation.
Created to benefit the Rim country's foster children by June Dudley, owner of Flowers by June, this program started out with 44 gift wishes.
Now, just 10 days before Christmas, there are 13 unfulfilled wishes left.
"I'm really afraid they're not going to be taken care of, because they're older children," Dudley said. "I don't care if it's a cassette tape or a pair of gloves or a book something, anything, would be so appreciated by these kids."
The deadline for Dudley's program is Dec. 20.
To participate, visit Flowers by June at 807 S. Beeline Highway, select your gift recipient, and take the gift to Dudley who will see that it is distributed before Christmas Day
For more information, call 474-3434.