Meets pressing community needs by mobilizing caring New Yorkers in volunteer service.

About the program

Around 1.7 million New Yorkers live at or below the poverty line, and for the last 27 years, New York Cares has offered a way for generous New Yorkers to help the less fortunate during one of the most challenging times of the year. Originally called “Secret Santa”, Winter Wishes is one of our longest-running and most highly anticipated annual programs. Similar to other holiday gift drives around the country, our unique program provides holiday toys and gifts for tens of thousands of children, teens, and seniors at participating partner agencies across the five boroughs.

How it works

Children and Family Write Letters

Our Community Partners, including schools, churches, shelters, and many other service organizations, help their clients write holiday gift and request letters. (Stickers, drawings, and glitter encouraged!)

Letters Arrive at Our Office

New York Cares staff and volunteers read each letter and match them with volunteers who will grant the wishes. 

Volunteers Sign Up for Gifts

Caring New Yorkers sign up to get a handwritten letter from a child, teen, or senior. Volunteers can register as individuals or as a group. Simply register on our website and select how many wishes you would like to grant. Each letter comes with approximately a $40 commitment. 

Presents Arrive

Volunteers mail the holiday gifts directly to our Community Partners using the address provided on the back of each letter. Our Community Partners distribute the gifts to their clients, who enjoy a happy holiday knowing that someone in New York cares.