Gayla’s is actually a somewhat inspiring story. The song became a nationwide hit, propelling the Oklahoma child star to national renown amusement. The Oklahoma City Zoo used the song to raise funds to buy a hippopotamus, which Gayla herself presented to the zoo.
Gayla went on to have an unremarkable career as a child singer and then, under a stage name as a teenager, pop singer. But this Christmas story actually has a happy ending: unlike so many child stars, Gayla ended up finishing college, enjoying careers in teaching and advertising, and having a daughter and three grandkids (if Wikipedia is to be believed).
So, gentle readers, even if Gayla never got her own hippo for Christmas, she got a lot more out of life.