A Secret Gift tells the story of Gup’s grandfather, Sam Stone from Canton, Ohio. A real-life Secret Santa at the peak of the Great Depression, Stone was an anonymous donor to those in need. Using the name “B. Virdot,” Stone placed an advertisement in The Canton Repository days before Christmas 1933, pledging to give 50 to 75 needy Cantonians a financial gift for the holidays. He received hundreds of letters, and decided the need was so great that he sent out 150 modest checks to families around Canton.
“The interesting thing is, this local story out of Canton, Ohio, is not only being published in English, but also in Mandarin, Korean, and Italian. It’s being distributed globally and is resonating with people all over the world.”
CBS Sunday Morning followed Gup back to Canton to attend the event “A Night to Remember” at the Palace Theatre on November 5. At the event Gup not only read from his book and signed copies, but he also asked descendants of the letter writers to read the notes their families wrote to “B. Virdot” in 1933. Classical composer Phillip Bimstein, who contacted Gup about composing songs based on an op-ed piece Gup wrote for the New York Times about his grandfather’s generosity, performed music based on the missives with his musical group, Red Rock Rondo.
Gup said a highlight of the evening was when the last known surviving letter writer, 91-year-old Helen Palm, read the letter she wrote to B. Virdot. “It was a dramatic night,” Gup said. “The interesting thing is, this local story out of Canton, Ohio, is not only being published in English, but also in Mandarin, Korean, and Italian. It’s being distributed globally and is resonating with people all over the world.”