This Christmas promises to be the best ever for 10-yearold SadÃ© Ashby, after a local businessman offered to fly her father from Barbados for a long-delayed visit.
SadÃ© underwent a liver transplant at age two, and recently began visiting with her father online but hasn't seen him in three years due to tight family finances, said her mother, Diane Wilde.
The child remains cheerful despite dealing with debilitating migraines, asthma and a weakened immune system.
The family survives on $925 in monthly provincial income assistance, making SadÃ©'s desperate wish for a Christmas visit from her father out of reach.
The situation was detailed in Tuesday's Times Colonist in an article about Victoria's Christmas Giving Program, which includes the Times Colonist Christmas Fund. The fund raises about $250,000 annually for less fortunate citizens.
SadÃ©'s story "pulled at my heart strings," said the donor, who is now well-off but came to Canada with $150 in his pocket and lived in poverty on the Prairies.
"I said to myself if I ever made it, I would do whatever I could, when I could," he said.
"We want this little gal to have a nice Christmas and see her daddy."
The donor said he was touched by reading of a young child with so much to deal with - right down to losing her $40 monthly supplement for high-protein food.
The family relies on both the Mustard Seed Food Bank and St. Vincent de Paul for groceries to get them through the month.
The benefactor contacted the Times Colonist on Wednesday, leaving a voice message saying he had pretty well arranged a flight through his travel agent, who was waiting for the details of the dates from Wilde.
Wilde reacted quietly but strongly to the good news.
"I couldn't breathe at first," she said.
"I couldn't believe it. People are just so kind."
As for SadÃ©, she was frozen for about 20 seconds, then broke into an ear-to-ear grin.
The news had barely registered before she said she wanted to get in touch with her benefactor to express her thanks, but he prefers "doing the right thing" while remaining anonymous.
"The only struggle I have with this, quite honestly, is that her dad has to go home," the donor said.
SadÃ©'s father works as a roofer and plumber, which are not well-paid jobs in Barbados.
Wilde hopes he can stay for a month and start working toward permanent residency status while he is here. Wilde is not eligible to sponsor him because she receives social assistance.
She homeschools SadÃ© for health-related reasons and can no longer work outside the home.
SadÃ©, who is already singing carols, may also find a certain gift - sure to make her "ecstatic," Wilde said - from her benefactor under the tree.
"I'll tell her that it was from a very special person," she said.
Christmas "can be the hardest and loneliest time - for SadÃ© every year not having daddy there, it was so hard," Wilde said.
"I can tell she's really happy."
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