Magazine article The Saturday Evening Post

"I Am Santa!"

Magazine article The Saturday Evening Post

"I Am Santa!"

Article excerpt

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

as told to Julie A. Evans

THIRTY YEARS AGO, my father-in-law brought me his red Santa Claus suit and asked me to take his place at the local garden center where children would be lining up for pictures. He had just seen the ear doctor and said he couldn't hear the kids anymore. I laughed and said I wasn't going to do it. In fact, I repeatedly said no--I was a restaurant executive, not Saint Nicholas--but my wife eventually convinced me, after I spent three nights on the couch. She has a way of talking me into things.

I'm glad she did. That first weekend as Santa, a little boy came in with his morn. He left her side, ran across the room, jumped into my lap, and put his hands around my neck and squeezed--so hard I almost couldn't breathe. That's how excited he was.

I asked him what he wanted for Christmas. He said, "Nothing. I just want you to make my mother happy." He took off his stocking cap, and I noticed that he had a bald head with a scar from the top of his head down behind his ear to his neck. I looked up and saw his morn, crying. But she was smiling through her tears.

Later, I found her and asked, "What does this mean, that he only wants to make you happy?"

She explained that he was a patient at Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio. It was going to be their last Christmas together, and he knew that she wanted one last picture of him with Santa.

A couple of weeks later, I went down to the hospital to ask if I could raise money for them. They said, "No, what we really need is a Santa Claus."

"Oh no," I said. "You've got the wrong guy." But they talked me into it. They groomed me, taught me what to do and say around the children, and made me who I am today.

And so, it just continued to grow. At Christmastime, I visit every child in every room. …

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