Blogmas Day 5: Secret Santa Extravaganza

After having discussed the differences between a Secret Santa gift exchange and a White Elephant gift exchange yesterday, I thought that I would talk about the three Secret Santa gift exchanges I participated in this year. 

I signed up for these exchanges online.

The first exchange I signed up for was one that consisted of only chronically ill people. I met the organizer, Christina, of this exchange through Instagram and have been communicating with back and forth for well over a year. We have several of the same illnesses and she has been not only a great resource but also just great support.

For this exchange there was a budget set of $15 and there were just over 150 participants from all over the world. Unfortunately Christina ran into a few hiccups while running this event. It was run through an application call Elfster and while Christina was trying to handle rematching participants due to drop outs, several of us were unintentionally rematched after gifts had already been sent/received. I had already received my gift (purple fuzzy socks with no slip grips on the bottom) when we were rematched but I had not purchased the gift for my gift recipient at this point.

Typically you are asked during the registration process if you are willing to be match with someone outside of your country of residence due to shipping costs. I opted out of being matched with someone from another country for this reason, but was mistakenly matched with someone from the UK during the rematching process. I also noticed that this person appeared to have already had things purchased off of their wish list, which meant that this person had likely already received a gift prior to the rematching. For this reason I reached out to Christina and requested that she see if this person had in fact already received a gift and if so, please rematch me with someone in the United States who had not. Upon further investigation, the Christina found that my 2nd match had in fact already received a gift, but there were no remaining matches in the US other than herself that had not yet been paired. She gave me the option to be paired with someone outside the US or to be matched with her. I chose Christina.

Shortly after agreeing to organize this years Secret Santa exchange, Christina found out that she needed emergency surgery. Christina struggles with Classical Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS). Unfortunately this has caused severe spinal instability which resulted in a complete neck and spine fusion (spread out over a couple different surgeries) just three years ago. This fusion has allowed her significant relief until a couple weeks ago when a portion of her fusion failed and it was determined that she needed emergency surgery. She had that surgery the week after Thanksgiving. Things went smoothly and she was released from the hospital just a couple days after surgery to recover at a friends home not far from the hospital (as they live states away from the surgeon that handles her fusion)… she ended up being readmitted just a couple days later with sepsis.

I felt it was really important that she too receive a gift. She has had one hell of a year. She has spent months on months in the hospital and continues to remain filled with joy and supportive to others. And after all of the hard work she had put into organizing this exchange and the hiccups she experienced.

I sent her a handmade minky blanket. It had zebra print minky fabric on one side and solid purple minky on the other. The support ribbon for Ehlers-Danols Syndrome (EDS) is zebra print. This is because those with Ehlers-Danlos often experience difficulty getting diagnosed due to lack of education and awareness. Medical students frequently hearing “when you hear hoofbeats think horses not zebras” while in medical school. EDS is rare, so when a patient presents with the symptoms of EDS, they often have to endure a lot of testing and see doctor after doctor to get a proper diagnosis.

The fabric was roughly $30 plus time. She has not yet received her gift as I sent it to her home in Maine and she is currently in Maryland where her surgeon is located. Hopefully she will be able to go home soon.

The two other exchanges I participated in, I signed up for on Reddit.

One of them was a Holiday Card exchange. I had never heard of such a thing but it was a lot of fun!

I received a cute card that was a beautiful snowy red barn scenery. During the registration process you fill out a profile and in my profile I mentioned possibly becoming pen pals and my Secret Santa would like to become pen pals so I am so excited about that!

I tried to make my own card per the request of my card recipient but I am a perfectionist and it was not coming out the way that I wanted to and I did not have the energy or patience to continue trying… so instead I sent a Peanuts card with Snoopy’s dog house and Snoopy and Woodstock on top of his house wearing Santa hats as it snows.

The second exchange I participated in from this site was an actual gift exchange. This was their 10th Annual Secret Santa gift exchange and nearly 100,000 people participated. There was a $20 budget but if participants wanted to go over that budget, they were allowed to do so.

I was paired with a gentleman who’s year started out rough (job loss, divorce), but seems to have ended on a much higher note (a new boyfriend and job). I also made him a blanket. I chose a tie dye fleece for one side and a purple minky for the other. He also enjoys watching Golden Girls so I included some Golden Girl Quote in vinyl decals. The fabric was roughly $35 plus time and the decals were $15.

I received my gift today. I received a very thoughtful letter, super hero sock advent calendar, super hero jogger pants, a Captain America graphic t, a Captain America Christmas tree ornament, two rubber duckies to add to my collection, and they packed it all in packaging paper so Rawry was happy as a 2 foot pick in a 3 foot of mud. It was PERFECT.

Ultimately this was a GREAT way to meet new people, do something for others, and get in the holiday spirit. 


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