An unlikely scenario played out before Christmas: A man assumed the role of Santa Claus for a 5-year-old whom he had never met.
The story began on Tuesday morning at Saint Rose of Lima School in Chula Vista, Calif. A group of 23 students wrote letters to Santa, attached the letters to red and green balloons, and sent them off into the sky. The goal was for the letters to reach the North Pole.
Instead, the letter from 5-year-old Joie reached Terry Hardin, a few miles away in downtown San Diego. Hardin was leaving his job when the red balloon traveled toward him and landed in a parking garage. Intrigued, he walked toward the balloon and found the attached letter.
"Dear Santa, I would like to have a mermaid doll with a bow for Christmas. Thank you, Love, Joie," the letter read.
Hardin's mother was also named Joie. She passed away in August 2012. The defense contract negotiator admitted that when she died, the two weren't on great terms.
"It put a chill up my spine," Hardin told NBC 7 San Diego. "This literally came from Heaven to make things right."
So Hardin and his wife went to work by combing through Facebook and contacting local media organizations to assist in finding little Joie. The search concluded at Mrs. Garay's kindergarten class.
There, Joie met her secret Santa, and Hardin delivered her wish, gifting her a Little Mermaid doll, complete with a bow. The moment was captured on camera and uploaded to YouTube.
"You got what you wanted, Joie!" shouts one of her classmates as she opens the gift.
In the end, Hardin received what he wanted, too: a sign from his mother. And the source was just as unlikely.