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Boys and Girls Club, Ganser, American Girl Team Up to Make Christmas Brighter for Local Families


Mechele Williams can’t hold back the tears no matter how she tells the story. The past year or two of her life has been one nightmare fading into the next. She is the mother of seven children and, like many mothers in her circumstances, nothing shows how dark life has become for her like the bright lights of Christmas.

Standing in the aisle at American Girl in Middleton on Friday it all seems to catch up to her. How she started out raising her children in a nice duplex with a good City job; how quickly it all disappeared when she started having health problems.

Pretty soon she was living at her mom’s with all seven of seven kids. She developed mental health issues, had no money to take care of her kids and could see no light emanating from the end of the tunnel.

Williams had a heart attack and had to receive three stints in her heart. She broke her ankle in three different places. And, on top of it all, she had a newborn infant to try to take care of.

Today, Williams and some of her children got a bit of light in the form of a shopping spree for toys shopping spree hosted by the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County and Ganser Company at American Girl in Middleton. Williams had tears in her eyes and a lump in her throat the entire time.

“This gives you some peace of mind,” she told Madison365. “This is a true blessing. It’s a true blessing in the most real way. To have someone give these toys to others who need it is a blessing.”

All but one of Williams’ kids don’t believe in Santa anymore, because of all the years they’ve seen her struggle to put anything under the tree. But little by little things have been looking up. Williams is two credits away from achieving her Associates Degree. She has good job experience. One can see that step by step she’s going to make it.

“I’m just trying to rebuild so much,” she said. “My daughter wanted to see the Christmas lights and I couldn’t even do that. For people to give to me, it’s very hard for me. It took such a toll on my life and my kids. So I’m just so grateful for what people have given to them. I want them to know I did everything I could for them. And that’s where I am today. Even coming here today was hard for me. But my kids are worth it.”

Stories like Mechele’s are why Boys and Girls Club of Dane County makes sure to do what it can during the holidays to provide for families and give a little bit of reprieve from the grind for parents.

Boys and Girls Club CEO Michael Johnson oversaw the event, which was the result of a $17,000 donation from the Ganser Company.

More than 36 kids representing 13 families participated in the toys shopping spree at noon on Friday. American Girl opened its doors and provided discounted prices, which Ganser Company paid, so the families could have presents under the Christmas tree and keep alive for their children the magic and surprise of the Christmas Spirit.

Dennis Dahler, who was dressed up as Santa at the event, helped raise money and handle the logistics.

“We just gave away $50,000 worth of stuff,” Dahler told Madison365. “But it’s not the amount we gave, it’s just the giving that counts. It’s nice to see these families having a good time. We filled up two semis and it is just wonderful. Mattel and American Girl did this. It’s just part of their culture to give.”

Ganser Company hosted an event after the American Girl shopping spree to reveal a new, state of the art sign at the Boys and Girls Club administrative office building that will be Dane County’s largest digital billboard. In the upcoming weeks, Ganser and Boys and Girls Club plan on announcing a partnership that will provide living wage employment to more than a dozen teenagers and parents associated with the Boys and Girls Club.

“We are excited about this partnership with Boys and Girls Club of Dane County and the ability to offer more than a dozen students and their families with $10-15 per hour jobs within our company,” said Ganser Company CEO Debora Kilgore.

For mothers like Mechele such a thing would be a big boost to one of her teenages. Through the tears and the pain, Mechele picked out some nice toys for her kids. She has one kid left who still believes in Santa.

Thanks to events like this and her own stunning perseverance Mechele will be able to provide that child with the magic of Santa one more time.