COUNTY NEWS: Girl's surprise Christmas gift from stranger 800 miles away

A nine-year-old girl who sent a message to Santa on a balloon was amazed to find a box of presents on her doorstep on Christmas Eve after her message reached a generous family more than 800 miles away.


Eric Harmer took granddaughter Lily May to the West Hill in Hastings on October 27 to send a message to Santa Claus.

Eric, from Rye Road, said: “I suggested that she should write a letter and we would attach it to two helium balloons that I had picked up from a party the previous weekend, go up to the West Hill and release them to see if anyone would find the message and reply.

“The letter was addressed to Santa and it explained about Lily and her family.

Lily May Harmer's helium balloon travelled all the way from Hastings to Austria. SUS-170501-164642001

“The balloons barely got off the ground and just cleared the trees at the end of the hill - maybe it might make it to The East Hill or Fairlight, I thought.

“And that was it. Forgotten about until Christmas Eve.”

And the night before Christmas, Lily was in for a big surprise.

Eric said: “There was a knock at my door.

Lily May Harmer with her present and letter from Josef Dorn in Austria. SUS-170501-164653001

“The postman arrived with a parcel about the size of two shoeboxes addressed to Lily May Harmer.

“Lily opened the Christmas paper wrapped parcel and found inside lots of sweets, an advent calendar and a soft toy.

“There was also a letter from a family in a ski resort in Austria.”

Lily’s balloon had travelled over France, Germany and Belgium before it was picked up by Josef Dorn and his family on October 28 - the day after Lily sent her balloon message into the sky.

In his letter to Lily, Mr Dorn wrote: “My wife Heidi, my two children Reinhard and Romana and I have decided to give you a pleasure.

“We are really sorry that your letter has not reached the North Pole and Santa, so we decided to send you a little gift.”

Eric said: “I was knocked out.

“I could probably send thousands of these and not get a reply.”

Eric is now hoping to get in touch with Mr Dorn to thank him for his kind gift and helping to make Lily’s Christmas extra special.

He said: “I want to contact him and tell him how appreciative we are for what he’s done and the time and effort he’s taken.”

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