DENVER -- In everyone’s life, there are certain dates with special significance. For Anna Malic, December 17 is one of them.
“It’s our 12-year anniversary,” Malic said.
Tragically, this year will be different. Anna's husband Allan died on Thanksgiving Day, weeks after being diagnosed with cancer.
“(The kids) realize that daddy’s not here anymore,” Malic said. “They really miss their dad.”
For the children, it’s been a huge adjustment. To them, their dad was nothing short of heroic.
"He was very great,” said 11-year-old Ace. “He was selfless to everybody, even strangers. He would do anything for his family.”
“He teached (sic) me how to do self-defense, karate, how to ride a bicycle,” said 9-year-old Anna.
Allan Malic lived with passion, moving his family to the U.S. from the Philippines three years ago. He died a fighter, after battling an aggressive form of colon cancer, eventually passing away Thanksgiving Day.
“It’s so hard for me, seeing him really deteriorating,” Anna said. “It was so quick.”
Allan was diagnosed in October and died only one month later after undergoing chemotherapy.
“It was devastating,” Anna said.
A family broken, but still so strong, their story, first shared on Denver7 a few weeks ago, inspired so many in our community.
“I’m forever grateful for everything,” Anna said.
The community donated thousands of dollars to make Christmas special for the four Malic kids: Ace, 11, Anna, 9, Angelou, 7 and Angel, 5.
Denver7 and Sam’s Club of Denver helped to organize a virtual visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus.
“Do you know what Santa’s favorite cookie is?” Santa asked the children on Wednesday over a Zoom call.
“Chocolate chip,” said Anna.
We listened to the younger kids brim with excitement about their Christmas wishlists while the older kids broke our hearts.
“I’m okay, Santa,” Ace said. “I don’t need anything more.”
“I’d like at least a dream about him or with him,” said 9-year-old Anna.
After the virtual Santa visit, the fine folks at Sam’s Club answered Santa’s call – delivering dozens of presents to the family’s west Denver home.
“We just had a bunch of gifts for the kids and gifts for the mom, as well,” said Jamie Nissen, asset protection manager with Sam’s Club. "There’s just so much joy to be able to come out to a family like this and help; it’s just heartwarming for us here.”
“It’s amazing,” said Allan’s wife, Anna. “I’m forever grateful for everything.”
And at dusk, thanks to Denver Illuminations, another gift for the kids.
“It’s beautiful,” said Ace of the lights Denver Illuminations put up on the Malic house.
And finally, one more surprise.
A trip to the Denver Zoo for Zoo Lights. The Denver Zoo presented the family with a special interactive experience, where the kids and a few of the zoo animals, like Jake the Goffin’s Cockatoo, got to know each other a little.
A moment where the kids could just be kids again. And a date that might just have a new kind of special significance.
This story originally reported by Russell Haythorn on TheDenverChannel.com.