PETROLIA, Pa. - What started as a Saturday night dinner out ended with a touching act of kindness for one family that was shocked to learn their bill had already been paid by strangers.
The Centurion Restaurant in Petrolia is busy all day long, but the customers Michaela Bailey served Saturday night were memorable.
But what neither she nor anybody else knew was that the couple with three children had fallen on hard times.
"You know, we're struggling, and with the kids begging us, we wanted to take them out anyhow even though we didn't have the money,” the children’s father, who didn’t want to be identified, told Channel 11 Monday.
Bailey said another customer approached her and asked to pay for the family’s meal.
"This woman approached me and was like, ‘I want to pay for their meal, because it's Christmas time and they have three kids anyway,’” Bailey said.
Who that woman is remains a mystery because she asked Bailey to keep her identity a secret.
"Our 6-year-old daughter was real ecstatic, and she thought Santa Claus was there and paid for the meal,” the children’s father said.
For the woman who wrote the check, the gesture may have been small, but it meant far more for the family who got the surprise.
"I'm just glad there are still people out there that do that and like to help others around the holiday season,” the father said.
The children’s father also had a message to pass along to the family’s secret Santa.
"I'd just like to say thank you, and I appreciate it,” he said.
Bailey said she wasn’t surprised by the stranger’s kindness. She said Petrolia is a small town and everyone goes out of their way to help one another.