With love, from Christopher and Santa: Bemidji woman gives gifts in honor of her late brother

Lara McIntyre has spent a decade of holiday seasons giving gifts to others in honor of her late younger brother, Christopher McIntyre.

Lara McIntyre heads out to deliver kindness with David Wangberg, who is dressed as Santa Claus. Submitted photo.

BEMIDJI — Lara McIntyre has spent a decade of holiday seasons giving gifts to others in honor of her late younger brother, Christopher McIntyre.

She and her brother shared a deep love of Christmas, culminating in a favorite holiday memory when Santa appeared to them like magic in their living room as young children, distributing gifts.

Now, this year, she is making Santa appear for others.

Usually, her gift-giving in memory of her brother came in the form of “adopting someone” through giving trees -- the kind where you choose the name of an individual, and drop off a wrapped gift to be distributed to them. She would look for individuals with similar clothing sizes to her brother. She’d sign the gift tags with her brother’s name.

“I always write on the gift tag, ‘Love Christopher,’” she said. “It’s all from him, in his honor.”


This year, though, McIntyre was unable to find a giving tree, so she took to the internet, posting a request on the Bemidji Chit Chat Facebook page.

“My younger brother passed away suddenly of a dissected aortic aneurysm in 2009. My brother was a bigger build and every Christmas my daughter and I have picked off the ‘giving trees’ paying attention to sizes more towards my brother’s size. I’ve always tried to (do) extra for families in need, although I am rich by no means,” she wrote in her Facebook post on Dec. 13. “I’m seeking a gentleman that’s kinda a bigger guy, has difficulty buying new things and finding things that fit. I won’t be able to meet until (Christmas Eve) but I could even have Santa with me, for real. I’m feeling this intense need this year. I wish I could sponsor everyone, is there someone you know that will receive nothing for (Christmas)? Those are the ones I want to know about for sure. (message) me and I’ll see what I can do between my staff and I.”

When she put out the call, she didn’t know what to expect. She was a bit afraid that people would try to take advantage of her kindness with unreasonable requests like cars.

But she was surprised that she received five requests, all of which she was able to fulfill. McIntyre used her Christmas bonus from her job to cover the costs, and also provided baked goods made by people she works with.

On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, McIntyre headed out to deliver kindness with Santa Claus in tow. Santa, who is known to most as David Wangberg, is one of McIntyre’s friends and clients at one of the group homes she manages.

“It became so much more about my friend Dave and I making people smile in my brother’s honor than it was about my actual brother,” McIntyre said. “Because Santa was delivering we wrote “from Santa” on the packages, although still inspired by my brother, we didn’t want to confuse the kids.”

The two even started spreading cheer beyond their intended audience, handing out candy canes at the post office, gas stations and parking lots along the way. Between gifts and goodie trays, Wangberg and McIntyre delivered to 23 locations in two days.

McIntyre said she was initially unsure about sharing her story with the newspaper, but said she ultimately decided to because she hoped it would inspire others to be more giving.


“Maybe it will inspire others to give, not even just at Christmas,” she said.

She and Wangberg already have even bigger plans for next year.

“Dave and I want to incorporate another Santa and elves to reach out to even more people next year,” she said. “I honestly can’t express what a special Christmas this was, far beyond what I had expected. Delivering the gifts to my adopted folks was truly something I enjoy, and having Santa with me was beyond the best thing ever when the kids saw him. What a great day.”

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David Wangberg, who is dressed as Santa Claus, knocks on a door to distribute gifts on Dec. 25. Submitted photo.

Hannah Olson is a multimedia reporter for the Pioneer covering education, Indigenous-centric stories and features.
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