Mysterious Secret Santa Gives Away $1 Million This Year in East Idaho


Susan Andrews gasps when she lifts the lid of a beautifully wrapped box with a perfect ribbon. Steve, her husband, opens the second box. Two checks totaling $15,000 were found inside. 

“Holy Moly!”Steve said that he looked down at the zeros. “Merry Christmas!,”Susan replied in a tone that makes one shiver. 

They have been a great help to Old Saint Nick. Santa Claus costumesMrs. Claus, who has been Mrs. Claus for 25 years, had to put an end to their tradition for the second straight year. Last year, they couldn’t volunteer in schools like they enjoy doing because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, it’s because Steve has cancer. 

The $15,000 for Santa’s helpers likely going to offset those medical costs is a much-needed surprise from a Secret Santa himself. 

Nate Eaton, East Idaho News’ news director, has been creating surprises for the past seven years. Since the “Secret Santa”Although Eaton is still anonymous, he has become the face and voice of the whole operation. He’s the one showing up on doorsteps handing out the presents to people in the East Idaho region. That’s roughly about 350,000 homes, he said. 

The Secret Santa requested that Eaton give $100,000 to the Secret Santa when the tradition began in 2013.

Now, it’s grown to $1 million. 

“I was shocked. I’ll be honest with you,”In his annual interview, Eaton spoke to Inside Edition Digital over Zoom. He is the only member of his team to know Santa’s true identity. 

Eaton wants clarity about who he truly is “It’s one person. It’s not a program. It’s not a corporation. It’s not like it’s trust fund or anything. It’s actually a living person who just enjoys giving his money away.”

Eaton was told that the Secret Santa felt him. “there’s a lot of need”In their community, this year many people are dealing with the effects of the pandemic on their livelihoods and the impact it has had on their community. His team of elves began earlier. They’re doing bigger surprises and handing out bigger gifts. 

“The number of nominations we’ve already seen has been higher than in years past,”Eaton stated.

To be eligible to receive the secret Santa surprise, you must reside in East Idaho. Eaton stated that they will continue to review nominations for several weeks and consult with Secret Santa himself who often watches the surprise from his home. 

“Are you kidding?!”Darci Orchard, a kindergarten teacher, was sobbing when she was presented with a 2020 car. 

“This is amazing,”Carissa Heaps (a mother of eight) exclaimed when she received a car last Christmas. 

A blind man and his wife, Robert and Phoenix Rowley, got hundreds of dollars in gift cards and a $5,000 cashier’s check to help pay off mounting medical bills. 

Each check is carefully folded and placed into a box decorated with wrapping paper, bows and ribbons. An anonymous woman makes the checks each year for the surprise.

After seven years of being the face of this mysterious Secret Santa, one might think once the doorbell rings with Eaton and his camera crew, the family inside would realize what’s about to happen. But there are still many people who don’t, like Steve and Susan. 

“The holiday spirit was taken from [Steve] and we showed up with $15,000 and it just blew him away,”Eaton spoke highly of their encounter. “And he had no clue who we were. Those are the types that love: when they don’t know who we are. Because if they know who we are, they know that they’re probably going to get a big gift. But [those who] have no clue who we are, it’s even better.”

There are many people around the world and in other cities who have seen the surprises since videos of them are posted on East Idaho News’s WebsiteInside Edition has also covered the story for a few more years. And Eaton says many people contact him offering to contribute to East Idaho’s Secret Santa. He discourages such offers. 

Noting, “Do something in your community with whatever you have and we promise you’ll feel better if you get to do it rather than having us do it.”