Making his way to the ‘Big Apple’

Zack Reyna, Tivy High student, is again holding his “Letters to Santa” campaign through Dec. 2, to be counted and taken to Macy's in San Antonio, for the retailer's $1 (or maybe $2) per letter gift to “Make a Wish Foundation.”

Zackary Reyna of Kerrville is helping lead the “Macy’s I Believe Campaign” where for every letter written to Santa, Macy’s will donate $1 to the “Make A Wish Foundation.”

Zack is 21 years old now and in his final year at Tivy High School in the Special Education program. He was diagnosed with an inoperable brain aneurysm in 2007.

Zack was a recipient of “Make A Wish” in 2010, and granted his wish to ride a roller coaster at Disney World.

In 2014 with the help of the community, schools and surrounding youth groups, he was able to collect 6,205 letters.

When he delivered them, Macy’s doubled the money, and raised more than $12,000 dollars in Zack’s name for Make A Wish.

In 2016, his campaign alone collected 23,306 letters. And then he topped that by collecting 72,746 letters in 2020.

“When Macy’s doubled their contribution to $2 per letter that year, that meant Zack raised $145,492,” his mother, Soyla Reyna said.

“I want to make a difference,” Zack said.

He’s made such a difference in previous years that this year he has been awarded a special privilege, to be in the 2021 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and represent Kerrville in New York City, N.Y.

His mother said one man on the Macy’s staff in NYC has become one of Zack’s “buddies” and they have been notified that Zack will be riding in a decorated golf cart among one of the Clown segments of the annual parade.

And they will get to see some of the behind-the-scenes “action” and meet some of the performers.

But this isn’t the first time the Reynas have traveled to NYC to be part of the celebration. His mother said two years ago they were invited to go and have reserved seats in the Macy’s section outside the store to watch the entire parade,

“It was very cold up there and the best part, besides being so close to the parade, was that our seats were right over a vent from the subway system. And every time a train passed underneath us, it blew warmer air up to where we were sitting,” she said.

“He’s inspiring others to do random acts of kindness,” his mother Soyla said.

2021 campaign

So here are the important dates, deadlines and instructions for Zack’s 2021 “Letters to Santa” campaign, to benefit the Make A Wish Foundation through Macy’s.

The letter-writing campaign kicked off Nov. 1, and Zack is collecting them until Thursday, Dec. 2.

There are “mailboxes” for the “Letters to Santa” at any Kerrville ISD campus, and at Calvary Temple Church.

This year there is a QR code that people can scan, too, to send their letters electronically to the leadership team at THS.

On Friday, Dec. 3, Zack and his mother will deliver all the letters collected in his Hill Country project to Macy’s “Believe Day,” to a Macy’s store in San Antonio, probably the one at North Star Mall.

And they expect to be able to borrow a large van from their church, Calvary Temple, to take the thousands of letters to San Antonio that day. Soyla Reyna said the pep rally at THS to cap off Zack’s campaign is also scheduled for that day, so she expects to have a busy time with the delivery and the celebration.

“So far we have contacted all of Kerrville ISD, Ingram ISD, and schools in Fredericksburg, Hunt and Harper. And we already know about a couple local kids whose ‘wishes’ were delayed in 2020 because of COVID, and they’re waiting now to hear if they are chosen for 2021,” Soyla said.

The beauty of it, she said, is that it brings everyone together. And if area residents want to write one for Thanksgiving, that counts, too. The letters can say they believe in Santa or Christmas or something else they are grateful for.

Four years ago, Zack put his contribution at the top of Macy’s list by delivering 33,000 “I Believe” letters to a San Antonio Macy’s store. Now, in 2021, he’s trying to break his own annual record and collect more than that.

Zack holds the record for most letters at any Macy’s store.

The money at $1 per letter (doubled in recent years by Macy’s) stays in this south and central Texas area; and a child from this region is chosen to have their wish granted.

About 40,000 blank letter templates were distributed to all Kerrville ISD campuses, she said; and people are invited to use their own paper to do this, too. The blank templates were printed by So Fast Printing in Kerrville as a donation to the campaign, and Soyla said she was grateful for their help.

 “Some of the KISD schools and classes were having competitions on writing the most letters. All it takes is pen and paper, and you’re doing something good,” she said. “People have told me they were in a group that wrote letters, and when everyone was done writing, they read each one to all, and discussed them.”

Through social media and Zack’s mother’s contacts, his campaign has spread long distance to universities and other cities and states, where local residents have family members or have gone off to college.

“I posted messages on Facebook and it branched out. Zack is known all over.” she said.

Any paper and envelope will do, she said, and if community members want to add to Zack’s letter collection, they can write messages on any paper and put in an envelope to turn in.

“Please take time to write a letter to Santa, and help make a difference for a child who suffers from a life-threatening illness,” Zack said.

“This will be another year for Zack to pay it forward. He wants to be able to help another kid get his wish granted by collecting letters to help with the cost of the wish,” said Soyla Reyna.

 “We continue to live day by day, moment by moment, with Zack, but it’s a beautiful thing to see when it’s this close to the holidays to find ways to be thankful and help inspire others to give back as well,” she said, noting his doctor’s had warned them he would probably not live past a few months three years ago. But he did.

“Every letter counts and we want to be able to reach out to the community and spread the word to write letters to Santa,” she said.

Zack and his mother (and a fleet of “elves”) will collect this year’s letters Dec. 3; count them; and personally deliver them on Dec. 3 (National Believe Day) to Macy’s.

She said children and others should not put enough personal information on their Santa letters to identify the sender, that a child’s or adult’s first name and “To the North Pole,” (but not their last name or address) would be enough.

Zack’s mother said, in 2014 a boy named Miguel was picked to receive the Macy’s money, as a high school student about to go to college with severe visual impairment.

“Zack got to meet him because of his letters; and in 2015, Zack and Miguel were on the Macy’s website. The results of this year’s campaign are to be announced in either San Antonio or Austin. They alternate that depending on where the child is who will get their wish granted.”

Soyla Reyna said, “Macy’s is so generous, and this is our way of paying it forward, because we’ve been there and Zack got his wish.”

She said it’s been several years since Zack had a radiation treatment; and now his condition is complicated by juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. “But school and church have been his ‘drivers’,” she said. “But he’s 21 now and in his last year at Tivy. He said he wants a job at the Make a Wish Foundation.”

Soyla Reyna’s email address for more information is  soyla.reyna@ icloud.com.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.