Some Killeen-area layaway customers could receive a generous surprise this holiday season, with local retailers reporting incidents of "Secret Santas" helping to pay off outstanding account balances.

Tales of spontaneous incidents of anonymous giving have been sweeping the country for several weeks. Secret Santas mostly have donated at Kmart and Walmart stores in New York, Nebraska, Michigan, California and now Texas.

"This is the first time I've seen anything like it," said Joe Packett, manager of the Kmart on Fort Hood Street. "I don't recall it happening in the past."

Packett, who has been working at the Killeen location since 2002, said a male customer came into his store earlier in the week and wanted to donate money to pay off some layaway accounts.

"He didn't give his name," said Packett. "He said he didn't have a lot as a child and wanted to give back."

The mysterious customer paid $2,000 to pay for about 25 layaway accounts. The man had Packett select families who had put toys on layaway for their children.

"I have no idea why they chose our store," said Packett. "We are one of the few places that still have layaway, and we are close to Fort Hood, so maybe they wanted to do something for the military families."

On Lowes Boulevard, the Killeen Walmart was visited by an entire family of Secret Santas.

"One was a 5-year-old boy who had actually sold some of his own toys and wanted to use the money to pay for layaway for other children's toys," said Lynn Grossenbacher, the store's training coordinator. "They donated about $50; it was very sweet."

Wal-Mart's corporate office did not have any details on how many had donated or how much but acknowledged the phenomenon was occurring at multiple locations throughout the United States.

At Kmart stores across the country, the national retailer has received more than $450,000 in donations to pay off thousands of layaway accounts, according to the Sears Holdings Corporation, the retailer's parent company.

At the Killeen Kmart, Packett said he was touched to see people donate, and the families on the receiving end of the unexpected generosity were grateful for the acts of kindness. "They were shocked when we told them. Some of them cried," he said. "They have made some families very, very happy."