Winfrey surprises hurricane relief workers with her coveted holiday gifts

By Todd Peterson
Updated November 21, 2005 05:00 PM

Christmas came early this year for a group of Hurricane Katrina relief workers who were the surprise audience members on Oprah Winfrey?s “My Favorite Things” episode Monday.

“Nobody can repay you but I wanted to at least try,” said the queen of daytime to the people in her studio, including a registered nurse who quit her job to volunteer to help hurricane victims, a pharmacist who stayed on duty for 10 straight days and a woman who teamed up with the Humane Society to rescue animals abandoned during the storm.

Winfrey?s yearly holiday show includes a dream list of both practical and fanciful items that are distributed to the audience. During this year?s show, which falls during Oprah‘s 20th anniversary season, Winfrey doled out Burberry coats and handbags and a diamond-studded watch just like the one she’d received as a gift from Madonna. (Check out the complete list at

Between handing out goodies, Winfrey highlighted stories of the volunteers – some of whom slogged through the storm to help others. One such volunteer was a stay-at-home dad from Illinois who brought his own airboat to New Orleans and rescued more than 55 people and animals stranded by the floodwaters.

Among the other gifts Winfrey bestowed upon the volunteers were UGG boots, $498 Ralph Lauren cashmere sweaters, a video iPod, a new BlackBerry with three months of service, Sarah Jessica Parker?s new scent, ‘Lovely,’ Fox & Obel oatmeal cookie dough, which Winfrey dubbed “the perfect cookie,” and other goodies.

Of her extravagant gifts, Winfrey told her audience: “Nobody deserves it more than these true American heroes.”