WE KNOW the holiday season is more about giving than getting, but let's keep it real. It sure is nice to get cool stuff for Christmas. And it's even better when it's unexpected.
So, without further ado, can I get a "Ho, ho, ho!" to announce the winners of the Daily News' My Favorite Things holiday gift giveaway. Ten lucky people are about to get some really good stuff.
We may be bragging, but we're giving away VIP cheese baskets from DiBruno Bros., luxurious Hudson Park throws from Bloomingdale's, leopard-print robes from the Klimpton Hotel chain, soap from duross & langel, wine totes from Open House and more. The estimated cash value of each prize package is more than $1,000.
Thanks to all the Daily News readers who nominated people to be our winners. Your emails and letters were inspiring; some moved us to tears. They were about overburdened mothers caring for grandkids and people battling devastating illnesses.
One of my favorite emails was from colleagues of Kathy Battle, who's assigned to the homicide unit of the Philadelphia Police Department. They wrote, "Recently Kathy has been going through chemotherapy to treat breast cancer, her second bout with this disease. Kathy has an unbelievable personality, even through her battle with cancer, Kathy continues to come to work every day with a smile on her face. She is the homicide unit's victims assistance officer and works with the family's of victims daily, comforting and helping them through the process of losing a loved one with dignity and respect. Not one time has Kathy ever complained about her illness. Each year at this time, she holds a Christmas party for the children of homicide victims . . . Kathy clearly exemplifies the meaning of the spirit of giving during the holiday season."
Then there was this email about one of Philadelphia's super school teachers, Jennifer Gregorski. "She is a schoolteacher for the Phila. School District. She works very hard trying to teach young people who don't want to be there or don't want to learn. Every night she comes home and cries because she doesn't get the help she needs from the district, i.e. supplies, which we have to buy ourselves. She tries so hard and cares so much."
And since one of the gifts is a pair of tickets to see George Balanchine's "The Nutcracker" at the Academy of Music, I couldn't resist an email about a financially strapped single mother whose daughter had been begging her to see it. Any kid in Philly who wants to see "The Nutcracker" ought to be able to see it.
"She is doing the best she can to give the kids a nice Christmas this year but usually doesn't get any gifts for herself," Margaret Dunn wrote about her friend. "This would certainly bring a smile to someone who has had a very rough year. Not only that but her 4-year-old daughter has been begging to go see the 'Nutcracker' but it is not in the budget at all and I know it breaks her heart not to be able to do those simple things for her daughter. Her ex-husband is Arabic and Muslim, so the kids really only ever had a Christmas because of her."
Now, the mother can take her daughter to the ballet and out to lunch afterward using one of her Reading Terminal Market gift certificates. When I called to tell Megan Charrafi the news, her voice started shaking.
Giving is so much fun. I think I'll take a victory lap around my office. We may not be Oprah Winfrey, but we made a 10 people very happy.
1. Kathryn Battle, West Philadelphia
2. Alison Radovich, Doylestown
3. Jill L. Booth, Center City
4. Kristi Curry, Mayfair
5. Laura Waddington, South Philly
6. Jennifer Gregorski, Northeast
7. Cheryl Jensen-Gates, Elkins Park
8. Emily LaBar, Upper Dublin Township
9. Megan Charrafi, South Philly
10. Taiba Ashkar, Upper Darby