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Debbie and Dan Dannheisser fulfilled the Christmas wish list of a boy whom they had never met.
Sarasota Thursday, Dec. 16, 2010 10 years ago

The Christmas Spirit

by: Loren Mayo Black Tie Editor

As two parents in Georgia contemplated a way to break the news to their 9-year-old son that they couldn’t afford Christmas presents this year, a Sarasota resident was already making calls to obtain the boy’s Christmas wish list.

Dan Dannheisser, a personal injury attorney in Sarasota, had been reading an Associated Press article about the government terminating unemployment benefits around the country, even though nearly 2 million people had lost their jobs.

“In the article, it talked about a family in Georgia — a hardworking guy named Wayne Pittman — who had been on unemployment from his job as a carpenter for some time because of the economy,” Dannheisser said. “It sort of diverted me from the analytical thing. I thought, ‘I can’t fix the problems in Washington, but I can fix the fact that this little boy gets Christmas presents.’”

After contacting four AP writers, Dannheisser obtained the Pittmans’ phone number. He explained that he wanted to fulfill the Christmas list of their son, Joshua, but only on one condition — that they would tell Joshua that either Santa had delivered the presents or his mom and dad had bought them.

As Dannheisser and his wife, Debbie, began purchasing and collecting gifts for Joshua, the presents piled up. There were LEGO Star Wars and “Star Wars” movies, Jenga and other games, a football, trading cards and a LeBron James jersey. Dannheisser will also be sending a photo of his own family to the Pittmans.

“I talked to both Wayne and his wife, and they were both a little choked up and touched,” Dannheisser said. “I think it’s one thing when you’re dealing with obstacles, but another when it gets on your kids. I think this took some weight off their shoulders, because the financial problems wouldn’t reach out and touch their child.”

It isn’t uncommon for Dannheisser to involve himself in random acts of kindness. Just this past Thanksgiving, the YMCA board member donated 20 turkeys for the YMCA Youth Shelter kids to take to homeless families.

“It was just the right thing to do,” Dannheisser said.

In the spirit of the holiday season, many local businesses and organizations are serving as drop off locations for the Marine Toys for Tots as well as places for angel trees that contain wish lists of local children.

Toys for Tots drop off locations:
• City of Sarasota City Hall, 1565 First St.
• Insignia Bank, 5850 Fruitville Road
• K-Mart, 501 N. Beneva Road
• Publix locations
• Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office, 2071 Ringling Blvd., Suite 1
• Senior Friendship Center, 1888 Brother Geenan Way
• Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce, 5118 Ocean Blvd.
• Toys “R” Us, 8201 S. Tamiami Trail
• Wachovia Bank, 1819 Main St. and 5701 Bee Ridge
Donate online at

Angel tree locations include:

• Applebee’s, 5550 Fruitville Road
• IHOP, 4000 S. Tamiami Trail
• John Carl Spa & Salon, 1345 Second St.
• Landmark Banks; four Sarasota locations
• Publix, 3428 Clark Road
• RBC Bank, 5440 Clark Road
For more information, call 364-8845, Ext. 221.

Contact Loren Mayo at [email protected].

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