Pay it forward: Christmas spirit shines at Waterbury Park apartments in Federal Way

DeShon Robertson, 5, was given a basketball by Santa — played by Hans Schulz — Dec. 21 at the Waterbury Park apartments
DeShon Robertson, 5, was given a basketball by Santa — played by Hans Schulz — Dec. 21 at the Waterbury Park apartments' Christmas party. Gifts for the party were donated by Kandy Stevens of Minnesota.
— image credit: Jacinda Howard/The Mirror

Children at Waterbury-Park apartments in Federal Way were showered with gifts Dec. 20, thanks to the help of one Minnesotan woman and her family.

When Kandy Stevens of Minnesota learned Federal Way resident Betty Taylor was putting on a holiday party for the families living in her apartment complex, she decided this was the perfect opportunity to help someone in need.

Taylor and Stevens live more than 1,500 miles apart and have never met in person. But they share a common bond. Each displays her story about overcoming life's challenges on the Web site Both are also eager to give to others this holiday season.

On the site, Taylor writes about her 13-year-old grandson's challenges. Stevens writes about her family's loss: A Feb. 19 school bus accident left Sawyer, 11, critically injured and Reed, 12, dead. As a show of support, Taylor periodically leaves Stevens and her family encouraging messages on the Web site.

"For some reason, Betty's messages just spoke out to me," Stevens said. "When she posts, it's a prayer."

It was these messages that inspired Stevens to collect toys and gifts to send to Taylor so that she can give them away to children at her Christmas party. Students in Sawyer's sixth-grade class donated the 170 pounds of toys sent to Taylor.

"Honestly, so many people have been so good and faithful to our family," Stevens said. "Doing this was just a small way to say thank you to somebody who can use our help."

Taylor received nine boxes of gifts to distribute at her gathering. Enough books were sent to give a bundle of three to each family. The abundance of toys allowed for every child to get a gift.

"Me and the manager opened each box and we were just crying," Taylor said. "I thought that was so awesome to have somebody from another state to help someone out."

On Dec. 20, Taylor and the Waterbury-Park apartment management handed out the gifts. Families lined up to get their toys and talk to Santa. Alethea Giuffre, 2, bashfully accepted her toy. Rayah Giuffre, age 5 months, happily smiled up at Santa — played by apartment maintenance man Hans Schulz. DeShon Robertson, 5, accepted a small basketball before chatting briefly with Schulz.

The celebration was dedicated to Reed. A photograph of the boy was on display and with Stevens on the telephone, all present wished her family a warm, cheerful holiday.

"I was bawling in Wal-Mart hearing all these kids saying Merry Christmas," Stevens said.

Stevens did not plan to ask anything in return from Taylor, but when the Federal Way woman insisted on paying back the favor, Stevens instructed her to pass on the good will. The children at the party made hand-crafted cards for a wounded veteran at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

"I know what you can do for us — you can pay it forward," Stevens told Taylor.

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