Eagan woman rallies community to bring ’12 Days of Christmas’ to families in need

A mom in Eagan is helping strangers in need this holiday season by collecting donations and providing "12 Days of Christmas."

Jennifer Peery said it started small, with the hope of making strangers smile, and then grew into a much larger effort.

"I think the reason why it was so important to do this was a lot of people were losing faith in humanity," Peery said. "I wanted to show our community that there are still good people in the world."

Peery is known by many in Eagan as "PikaMom" and has gathered a following on social media. Throughout the pandemic, she has dressed in an inflatable Pikachu costume and waved to passersby in the hopes of boosting neighborhood morale. She often brings along her children, who dress as a dinosaur and unicorn.

"We’d have music playing, so it was our way of doing something as a family, doing something safely with COVID, but also just having fun because we knew we were making people smile," Peery said.

Seeing the positive response, she decided to do something special for Christmas and asked her followers to donate so she could surprise strangers with gift cards.

"The first day we got $250 in donations, so I went to Starbucks and gave the baristas a $250 tip. After that, I started getting messages from people in the community and they were like, ‘I have this family who could really use some help this Christmas,’" Peery said. "So I was like, ‘Great, let’s help these families.’"

On her Facebook page, she asked the community to nominate deserving families. She then posted one family’s story per day over the course of 12 days and asked Eagan neighbors to donate, ultimately raising thousands of dollars.

Among the people she helped were two kids whose only parent died two weeks before Christmas. The community provided more than $2,000 and other resources for the teens.

They also provided help for a single mother who recently left her abusive husband and gave gift cards to a couple raising their grandson who needs open-heart surgery.

The neighbors bought a new high-visibility coat and $425 in Aldi gift cards for a District 196 crossing guard who recently found out he has cancer and was having trouble making ends meet.

They also helped Stephanie Doudrick, a single mother in Eagan who lost her job at a restaurant because of the pandemic and was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer in September.

"It just didn’t feel real. I’m only 41. I shouldn’t have cancer," Doudrick said. "Then with COVID and being off of work, it wiped out almost any savings that I had."

Doudrick said she was in disbelief when strangers knocked on her door, presenting her with a $600 gift card this week.

"It feels unreal. I feel like I don’t deserve it," Doudrick said. "It was just so heartwarming and unbelievable."

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help the Doudrick family through this difficult time.

"These people are being taken care of for Christmas and never saw it coming. They’re people who don’t ask for help," Peery said.

Peery said she would like to thank the Eagan community for making this possible by stepping up and supporting their neighbors this holiday season.

Doudrick said she will never forget the kindness of strangers who helped bring some joy to her family in a challenging year.

"Even in the darkest of times, there’s always the light. You just have to look for it," Doudrick said.

Click here to find out how you can pitch in for the 12th day of Christmas and help a woman with a debilitating disease who also recently lost her home.