Heart of Utah: A City Sidewalk Christmas recreates real-life reunion

Dec 23, 2020, 9:18 AM | Updated: Dec 24, 2020, 11:30 am
city sidewalk christmas origin story...
A chance meeting on a Salt Lake City sidewalk led to a Christmas benefit concert and change for a homeless man struggling with addiction. Photo: Candice Madsen, KSL TV

SALT LAKE CITY — A real-life story that unfolded on a Salt Lake City sidewalk a few years ago opens a new chapter this Christmas, coming to life in an old-school radio drama on KSL NewsRadio and a more modern invention — a podcast.

“A City Sidewalk Christmas” tells the story of two men whose friendship overcame homelessness and addiction.


Sidewalk serendipity in real-life

Candice Madsen, a producer at KSL TV at the time, was walking to City Creek Center in downtown Salt Lake in May 2017, when she passed a group of men sitting on the sidewalk. They asked her to take their picture because it represented a reunion: two of the men had just found their old high school friend after years apart.

“When I learned his story and learned that someone cared about him, I totally saw him differently,” Madsen said.

Korey Hathaway, addicted to pain pills, wound up homeless.

“I broke my hand and I got put on pain pills, and I never thought it could happen to me at the time — I liked them, I was young, not thinking about the consequences,” he remembered. 

A sidewalk meeting and a Christmas concert

Michael Hansen wanted to help his friend, so that Christmas, he organized a benefit concert. He figured if he couldn’t help Hathaway, maybe he could help others through the Community in Action program.

The story attracted worldwide attention, with people writing in hoping to help — and talking about how addiction affected their families, too.

“People started asking me, ‘How is your friend doing? What can I do to help?’ and the response was incredible. It was amazing,” Hansen said.

Eventually, that unwavering support and love paid off.

“I always wanted a way out from being homeless, I just didn’t know how,” Hathaway said. “If he hadn’t been there, I probably would’ve kept what I had been doing, and I probably would be dead.” 

Hansen’s determination kept him going.

“I wasn’t going to be happy until he was off the streets,” Hansen said.

Retelling the story as a radio drama

Of course, the reality wasn’t that simple — and the full story is being retold on KSL TV Dec. 23, 2020, as well as in a radio drama and podcast, “A City Sidewalk Christmas.”

Madsen revisited the real-life sidewalk story in 2020, leading to the retelling of the story in the style of an old-time radio drama.

Hansen says he hopes it shows others the value of never giving up.

“There are people looking out for you,” he said. “You just might not know who they are.”

You can listen to the podcast below or tune in live at noon on Christmas Eve on KSL NewsRadio.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

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Heart of Utah: A City Sidewalk Christmas recreates real-life reunion