Secret Santa | The Big Data behind Holiday Toy Drives


DALLAS —Last Christmas, the WFAA Santa’s Helpers Toy Drive doled out gifts to over 50,000 children in need throughout Dallas/Fort Worth. Hundreds of volunteer hours, collaboration across nearly thirty community service organizations, and five “drive through” toy collection events across North Texas work in concert to ensure that no child is left empty handed during the holiday season. But behind the scenes, more than just Santa’s helpers are working hard. In fact, most people don’t know that a computer software system is hard at work collecting data to ensure that enough toys are available for distribution across DFW’s most vulnerable neighborhoods.

This is the fifth year that Santa’s Helpers is using software from Pieces, the Dallas-based healthcare AI and technology company, to track the toy data for their Holiday drive. Pieces Connect is a cloud-based case management platform that more easily enables the input, storage, and management of the information about clients who need to connect with community networks and services.

“Collecting data on how and when these toys are given out, and what ages of children Santa’s Helpers is providing for, helps WFAA understand where they have gaps in the program, where they can scale, and how they can better plan for next year,” says Cequila Greer, Community Network Executive at Pieces. “For example, because of Pieces Connect, we know that last year over 6,630 families in North Texas were served, and we can actually segment that data by zip code.”

With many families facing new economic hardships and job losses in 2020, the need for community support is even greater this year. According to one participating nonprofit, “Last year we registered 5,000 children for our Christmas giveaway. It took us 15 days to fill our giveaway slots. We did it in 15 hours this year.”

Over 25 community service organizations throughout Dallas, Tarrant, Collin and Denton counties are approved to distribute toys to needy children for WFAA’s Santa’s Helpers. All agencies within the Santa’s Helpers program are approved based on their ability to coordinate applications from families in need, access the Pieces Connect system for cross-referencing of names, and to adequately cover zip codes in areas where there is the most need.

Measuring results of community-based programs like this is more important than ever in this COVID-era. “The data collected in each zip code actually tells a bigger story than just toy delivery,” she said. “From here we’re able to look at similarities in high need areas with other social determinants of health needs and health disparities like higher instances of poverty, food insecurities, lack of transportation and jobs.”

Greer added, “We know that families in North Texas lost a lot this year due to COVID-19, and this data can empower our communities to help our citizens beyond just the toy drive. This data can enable these community organizations to collaborate or create more programs to service those areas – and that’s what Pieces’ data is all about.”

About Santa’s Helpers

WFAA’s Santa’s Helpers is celebrating its 51st year of collecting holiday toys for children throughout the Dallas/Fort Worth counties of Dallas, Tarrant, Collin and Denton. They are currently accepting new, unwrapped toys for children aged infant through teen. For information on where you can donate, visit the WFAA website

 About Pieces

Pieces, Inc. is a healthcare artificial intelligence and technology company that connects health systems and the community to address clinical and social determinants of health through community networks and intelligent software and services. Our solution interprets patient information in real-time and connects health systems and community-based organizations to support healthier outcomes, both inside and outside of hospital walls. Using cloud-based artificial intelligence with clinically-based natural language processing (NLP) and physician-supervised machine learning, our tools help streamline clinician workflows and improve patient outcomes. Combined, our solutions, Pieces Predict and Pieces Connect, create a comprehensive and unique solution for connected community health.


Media Contact:
Lisa Chernikoff for Pieces
SOURCE Pieces, Inc.