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A boy’s Christmas wish for a Paydirt Pete toy fulfilled by Santa & UTEP

Lucas Rubio and Paydirt Pete
Stephanie Valle
Lucas Rubio, 2, plays with his new bobble head given to him as a Christmas present by UTEP mascot Paydirt Pete.
Letter to Santa
Sam Oyler
This is a picture of a letter written by El Paso boy Lucas Rubio that was found in a Kansas field by a hay farmer. The big clue the letter came from El Paso was the request for a toy of UTEP mascot Paydirt Pete.

EL PASO, Texas -- The El Paso-area boy who wrote a letter to Santa that ended up in Kansas is getting his wish fulfilled.

Among other things, Lucas Rubio, 2, asked for a toy of the UTEP mascot Paydirt Pete.

"I'm like, 'What? Oh my God. I can't believe this is happening,'" Cristy Rubio told ABC-7 as she relived her reaction when her friend called her after seeing ABC-7 reporter Stephanie Valle's social media post on Dec. 2 about Lucas's letter to Santa.

Rubio said they released Lucas' Christmas wish list attached to two mylar balloons from their home in Santa Teresa, NM, on Nov. 21.

It somehow ended up 600 miles away in Garden City, Kansas four days later.

Sam Oyler, a farmer in Garden City, saw a balloon floating down and caught up to it in a field along a highway. Oyler reached out to Santa for help since the letter had no address. Oyler told ABC-7 Santa had previously helped with fundraisers at his children's school, which is how he got to know him.

Santa had to do some research to learn who Paydirt Pete was and said it was a great lead.

"If you're looking for a Paydirt Pete that's a dead giveaway (to the letter's origin)," Santa told ABC-7 in a FaceTime interview from the North Pole. "So, that's why we're looking in El Paso."

ABC-7 arranged a meeting between the Rubio family, UTEP's Paydirt Pete and Santa via FaceTime.

When Santa told Lucas he was able to fulfill his wish to get a Paydirt Pete toy, the UTEP mascot walked up to the boy and gestured for a hug.

"Pete!" Lucas yelled, and ran into his arms.

"He loves Paydirt Pete," Cristy, a UTEP alum, said. "We go to all the football games and we go to all the basketball games. He's yelling for him, he's asking to say hi to him," she said, adding, "This Halloween we even dressed him up as Paydirt Pete because that's what he wanted to do."

It was only natural for him to ask for A Paydirt Pete toy for Christmas.

But they aren't manufactured.

"I had even posted on Facebook, asking friends and family to help us find a way to make him a Paydirt Pete toy because I knew the bookstore didn't have any," Cristy said. "I'd looked online and I hadn't been able to find any."

Cristy said when her boys let their balloons with letters to Santa drift into the night sky, she thought they were just keeping a family tradition alive.

"It's a tradition we started with our sons soon after my father-in-law passed away," she said.

When Lucas' dad was a boy, he and his father launched balloons with letters to Santa every November 21. It's one of his favorite memories, said Cristy.

That's why she believes this is something beyond strong wind currents and durable mylar balloons.

"We just keep thinking that it's our guardian angel -- my father-in-law, his dad, their grandpa -- watching over them constantly, making sure he still has a part of their life," she said, choking up as her eyes misted over.

The effort to fulfill a boy's wish for a toy that spanned over 600 miles is proof of humanity, love and the holiday spirit.

News / Sports / Top Stories / UTEP

Stephanie Valle

Stephanie Valle co-anchors ABC-7 at 5, 6 and 10 weeknights.



  1. I know of hundreds of thousands plus boys who’s wish is for the miners to produce a winning season and for the current administration to quit marketing nostalgia and emotion . Tired of and DONE of the UTEP OLE MARKETING nostalgia gimmicks. Win or won’t buy tickets. Join in.

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