TODAY | December 16, 2011
>>> back now at 8:34, more than 49 million americans now live below the poverty line and a number of them like the family you're about to meet propelled into bankruptcy by a one-two punch of job loss and a catastrophic health crisis. "today" national correspondent jenna wolfe is here with more.
>> good morning to you, ann. in michigan the families of former autoworkers were among those taking the biggest hit and this holiday season as part of our getting to the heart of christmas series we wanted to offer a little hope to one family in crisis.
>> i miss being able to say that i have a home. that's the hardest part.
>> reporter: meet finley klein , this high school junior and family of six represent the new face of america's homeless.
>> i can see how this could rip families apart.
>> reporter: since early october the klein family has been crashing at a friend's vacant home in suburban detroit.
>> everything was going fine three years earlier. i could give them everything and now piece by piece , it was getting taken away from me.
>> reporter: a few short years ago the kleins lived a life full of promise, but then disaster struck. finley was diagnosed with a rare tumor.
>> all around here.
>> it's a bone-eating tumor that grows at a very, very fast rate.
>> the first picture that my dad showed me, her face was like over here, and when we found out she had the second tumor, it was even more scary, because my dad said she might not be good.
>> reporter: with their daughter fighting for her life and no insurance, the $100,000 surgery wiped out the klein 's savings. facing bankruptcy, the kleins lost their home and were evicted.
>> that broke my heart right there. it was the worst. i would take another tumor any day just to be back there and just for that to never happen again.
>> any more swelling?
>> yeah. that hurt worse than all of my surgeries put together. yeah, my jaw.
>> your whole sense of normalcy is gone, and trying to figure out what we're going to do to bring that back is when it's just like a neverending road that we're on right now. obviously it's going to be christmas celebrating, we're going to be surrounded by friends and family and that's the most important thing.
>> reporter: the family expects another bare bones christmas . we follow michelle to the local walmart where she plans to pick up some lights for the tree, but we actually have quite a surprise in store. our team is giving them a christmas to remember, by giving michelle the run of the store.
>> oh, wow.
>> the wonderful people of walmart opened up their stores and their aisles and their hearts. the store is your oyster, michelle .
>> oh, wow. what do i do? holy cow . serious seriously.
>> look at this face. would we lie to you?
>> pick out what you need, what you think the kids will enjoy for christmas and we'll take care of it.
>> oh! let's go shopping. where's my kleenex?
>> can we can why you're crying? this should be happy.
>> i'm overwhelmed. i don't know what to think.
>> don't think and just lead with your heart. michelle makes up for all of the years of underwear and socks.
>> they all need laptops, even darby .
>> laptops for school, a kindle for finley , an xbox for garrett.
>> oh, this is kind of cute.
>> some new duds for darby .
>> can i get my husband a tv?
>> and the mother of all tvs for russ.
>> wow, that is really big. oh my gosh.
>> and the candy kanes should go this way.
>> back at michelle 's parents house our team is busy decorating and wrapping the presents so the family can celebrate when the kids get out of school.
>> this is overwhelming. this is overwhelming.
>> why are you crying?
>> it's a tough couple years for them.
>> i'm sure. what's this going to mean for their children?
>> what we decided to do when you went to school today was bring christmas to your house. are you okay?
>> you got me a laptop?
>> the coolest present i've had ever.
>> pretty fantastic.
>> holy! wow!
>> reporter: we saved the best for last, telling the kleins the "today" show was flying them to new york, to be on the "today" show, to be on our set with matt lauer and ann curry , and finally take in new york city the way you guys should and spend a christmas like i'm sure you've wanted to.
>> i love you. joy to the world , the lord is come
>> it is my great pleasure to introduce to you, ann, the klein family, russ, michelle , finley , garrett, darby , and kendall. welcome.
>> good morning you guys and welcome. i feel like we're so far away from you. i'm going to step across and welcome you in person and michelle , we could tell you two it meant so much for to you give these things to your children. and to think you only wanted slippers for christmas .
>> i love slippers. it's all i really wanted.
>> but you really want a job.
>> four years ago when i was in the ford factory , left because we were worried about it, but you know, i'm back in michigan now, that's right where i want to be again, it's the best job i've ever had.
>> fingers crossed, things are getting better and better. finley watching this, you were particularly emotional. you say that losing your home hurt even more than even suffering through this tumor. what do you want to say to people listening this morning about what it means to be one of the what, 60,000 children who are in america today who are homeless and who are enduring this kind of pain. what do you want to say on behalf of all these young people ?
>> well, even though like they don't have homes, they have, we have a strong family, so it is our home, our family is our home.
>> you've come closer together as a family because of all this?
>> because you've had to, and i can see it's been emotional for all of you and your family. i want you to know that it's the best is yet to come, because we want to tell you that actually getting to the heart of christmas , wants to give you something else, the team at walmart wants to give you a monthly stipend to pay for food, clothing, and also fulfilling expensive medicines, anything else you need for a year.
>> oh, god.
>> wow, thank you. thank you. thank you very much.
>> walmart's been wonderful. they've just been fantastic and the "today" show.
>> and everybody connected with the "today" show and walmart, you know, i love you guys.
>> this has been great, i don't know if we deserve it.
>> it is what you deserve, clearly you as parents are doing everything you can to help your family. have you learned what it takes, finley , watching your parents? do you think about what they have done for you, what they've done for your brothers and sisters? what have you learned about the heroism it takes to be a parent sometimes?
>> i know that it's hard, and they're really courageous and i just, i love them for doing everything that they've done for us.
>> i should mention having spent time with them this is the most grateful, beautiful family you'll meet, they're grateful for every small thing. to spend a holiday like this, you can see it in their eyes as they're all shedding tears you can understand how much they appreciate this.
>> thank you and good luck to your family, we pray for you and all families.
>> thank you.
>> thank you to everyone who is involved and clearly a message we all need to add community, involve more to help our homeless families. we're back with much more. this