This Man Fulfilled a Child’s Christmas Wish After Finding Her Balloon to Santa

A balloon breaks at just the right moment to bring two faraway families together.

Alvin Bamburg, 66, was deep in the woods in Grand Cane, Louisiana, last December when something caught his eye. Crinkled and entangled in a fallen tree, it looked like litter. But Bamburg felt compelled to pick it up.

“God just told me,” he says.

As Bamburg approached, he saw that the object was a broken balloon. Attached was a piece of paper decorated with sparkly star stickers. It was a child’s Christmas wish list.

“Dear Santa,” the handwritten note read. “My name is Luna. I am four years old. I live in Liberal, Kansas. This year I have been nice. I would like candy, Spider-Man ball, Frozen doll, puppy, My Little Pony. With love, Luna.”

Bamburg’s heart hammered in his chest. Ever since he was a child, he had dreamed of this very scenario. “Years ago,” he says, “classes at school released balloons with notes. I’ve always wanted to find one.”

He believed this was his childhood wish coming true. And he knew he was going to make Luna’s wish come true too.

He just wasn’t sure how.

Bamburg takes to Facebook

Liberal, Kansas, is more than 650 miles from Grand Cane, Louisiana. But Bamburg’s wife, Lee Ann Bamburg, was undeterred by the distance. An avid Facebook user, she had seen other people find all sorts of connections through the site and thought it might help her husband find Luna.

On January 2, 2021, Alvin posted a photo of the balloon and the Christmas list on his Facebook page, asking for help locating the sender.

At first, he wasn’t confident the strategy would work. But as he saw the number of people sharing his post creep into the hundreds. “My hope grew into expectation,” Alvin says. “I knew we were going to find Luna.”

Meanwhile, Leticia Flores-Gonzalez, the mother of four-year old Luna and her twin sister, Gianella, had no idea that such an effort was underway. She was in Oklahoma City visiting her parents.

It had been a hard year for Flores-Gonzalez and her girls. A few months before the pandemic hit, her parents had moved out of Kansas. No other relatives lived nearby. As COVID-19 spread, the family felt lonely, scared, and isolated.

On a particularly tough day last December, Flores-Gonzalez had come up with the idea of having the girls send letters to Santa by balloon. She told them that Santa would grab the balloons while he flew through the air on his sled.

The twins were excited. Flores-Gonzalez helped them compose their letters, writing down all the things they dreamed Santa might bring them, and then put the notes into festive red balloons.

She dressed the girls in identical pink sweatshirts—it was a chilly, windy morning—and put floppy bows in their hair, then took them outside to release their wishes to the universe.

“Bye, balloons!” the girls called, waving as the balloons floated away, sailing above the trees and into the sky.

The family enjoyed a modest Christmas together, and then the calendar turned to a new year. One day in early January, Flores-Gonzalez noticed that a friend had been calling her all morning. When Flores-Gonzalez finally called her back, the friend blurted, “Someone found Luna’s balloon.”

“My jaw dropped,” Flores-Gonzalez says. At her friend’s urging, she logged on to Facebook and saw Alvin’s post. Then she saw that people from all over were asking if they, too, could be part of fulfilling the wish list.

A connection was made

Flores-Gonzalez was touched. But she hesitated before reaching out to Alvin. She hadn’t really expected anyone would find the balloons, let alone offer to buy gifts for her daughters.

But she was curious about this man who had tried so hard to find her family. So she gave him a call. When Alvin told her how much it would mean to him to grant the girls’ wishes, she agreed to let him send some gifts.

“Somebody found one of your balloons,” Flores-Gonzalez told the twins. “Santa dropped it by accident. One of his elves found it.”

Back in Louisiana, Alvin got busy collecting toys from his newfound Facebook community. He collected five boxes’ worth of gifts for the girls, sending them off with a note signed “Alvin the Elf.”

 Someone Found Lunas Balloon Pull Quote

Still, there was one wish on the list that couldn’t go in the box: A puppy. Alvin had hoped to get every last item on that list. And so, with Flores-Gonzalez’s blessing, he started searching for the perfect pooch.

He found it in a dachshund puppy, which he kept at his home until it was time for Alvin the Elf to make a house call.

From Louisiana to Oklahoma

In April, Alvin and Lee Ann headed to Oklahoma City. That morning, just as chilly and windy as the day Luna and Gianella waved goodbye to their balloons, Alvin got out of the car in front of the girls’ grandparents’ house. He let the puppy run to the twins, who squealed with delight when they learned it was theirs.

“Is this what you wanted for Christmas, girls?” Flores-Gonzalez asked.

“Yes!” they said as they hugged their new pet.

Later, both families sat down together to share homemade tacos. They all agreed—it felt as though they had known each other forever.

“We see him as part of our family now,” Flores-Gonzalez says of Alvin. “We keep in touch almost daily.”

Now, after having received so much generosity, Flores-Gonzalez and her girls intend to pay it forward this year. When they travel to Mexico at Christmastime, they will take toys, clothing, and shoes to give to children there.

After all, Alvin went more than the extra mile. “He could have just thrown that balloon in the trash. But he wanted to find Luna,” Flores-Gonzalez says.

Alvin feels his chance encounter with that red balloon showed him his calling. He began attending a Santa Claus training school, with the goal of playing jolly old St. Nick at toy drives and homeless shelters.

“God hears our prayers,” he says. “When you ask for something, it may not happen immediately. I’ve wanted this since I was a teenager.”

Next, read up on these heartwarming stories of kindness that will inspire you to pay it forward this year.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest