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'Pay Away the Layaway': Meet the surprise Santas who help families in need

/ Source: TODAY

Christmas is still weeks away, but Santa has already granted one 6-year-old’s wish.

Little Tristan and other children in the Bronx are beneficiaries of a volunteer charity that raises money to pay off the holiday layaway accounts for needy families.

Last year, Pay Away the Layaway raised more than $60,000 to help families.

“This year, we’re trying to raise over $100,000," said the organization’s co-founder Ian Bel. "That in itself has allowed us to really pay off layaways at so many more cities in the country."

Layaway programs allow people to pay off their merchandise over a period of weeks before taking it home. During a recent visit to a Kmart store, Bel and his business partner, Lee Karchawer, collected toys on various layaway lists, paid for them, and wrapped them up for their new owners.

“We're actually going to pay away everyone's layaways today. Everybody’s going home with all their presents on layaway!” Bel told a crowd of surprised shoppers.

The group included Tristan’s mom, Brigitte, who had come in thinking she was going to pay off her bill.

“That means to me I am greatly appreciated,” she told TODAY’s Jenna Bush Hager. “You lose faith in certain things, so you work really hard to make ends meet.”

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Anna, who was holiday shopping for five children, said she couldn't believe she was receiving such charity.

“It’s touching that there are nice people out there who help people like me," she said, adding that she felt like crying.

That's exactly what Linda did, failing to hold back the tears.

“It’s going to be special this year,” she said about this year’s holiday, the first for her daughter, Leah.