The U.S. Postal Service on Tuesday kicked off its annual "Letters to Santa" campaign with a story of a Christmas wish fulfilled.
Celebrating its 100th year, the program, also called "Operation Santa," allows donors to respond to letters written to Santa by underprivileged children.
One of those children whose letter was adopted is Shimaya, a shy but fun loving 9-year-old girl from Compton. Her story is a example of the power of Operation Santa.
Shimaya was born deaf, missing one ear and with only a partial ear on the other side. She has endured countless hours of surgeries to get what she has always wanted.
"Her mom was very sadden by the fact that Shimaya would ask her all the time to please have ears like her baby sister so she could get her ears pierced," said Dr. Sheri Lewin, a craniofacial and pediatric plastic surgeon in Santa Monica who specializes in ear reconstruction
Lewin remembers first reading the Dear Santa letter Shimaya's mother, Mya, sent to the post office two years ago.
"I remember getting emotional just writing the letter, just putting my all into the letter, and I decided to send it off," Mya Worthey recalled.
Lewin said she has a daughter the same age as Shimaya and could understand Worthey's feelings.
"You could hear the pain of a mom," Lewin said. "You could tell that she was really desperate."
Lewin says she was approached by a postal worker, Beverly Young, about Shimaya's situation. Lewin answered the letter and, over the last two years, has performed three surgeries on Shimaya.
The most recent was last Friday, in which Shimaya was given ear lobes.
The big reveal of her new ears is scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 6. There is a surprise for Shimaya: She's getting earrings, but she doesn't know that yet.
An anonymous donor gave diamond stud earrings for the occasion.
"I can't wait to see the whole family expression, her little sister, grandma, uncles, everybody to see Shimaya with her earrings and that big smile that lights up a room," said Jeremy Myles, Shimaya's father.
Lewin said the experience has been meaningful for her as well.
"The reward for me is to see the shy little girl … who was scared of me because I was wearing a white coat, turned into giving me hugs and kisses when I see her," Lewin said. "She just blossomed into a beautiful young lady."
The Postal Service hopes others will be inspired to adopt and give this holiday season. Some 600 of the 25,000 Dear Santa letters that arrive to the post office from the greater Los Angeles area are expected to be answered.
"Kids asking for things like shoes, a warm jacket, even a bed once -- I remember because they were sleeping in a sleeping bag," said Rich Maher, USPS spokesperson.
Here's the list of participating locations. Those interested in answering a letter written to Santa can visit one of three Southern California locations on these dates only: Dec. 4, 6, 11, 13 and 18, from 11 a.m to 1 p.m.
Photo identification must be presented to adopt a letter. The locations are:
Zip codes 900-904, 910-912
Los Angeles District Office
7001 S. Central Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90051
Zip codes 905-908, 917-918, 926-928
Santa Ana District Office
3101 W. Sunflower Avenue
Santa Ana, CA 92799
Sierra Coastal District Office
28291 Franklin Pkwy.
Santa Clarita, CA 91383