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Santas Hearing Sad Stories
Posted: 18 December 2009 05:15 PM   [ Ignore ]
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My heart just aches after reading this…

Please, Santa, get Dad his job back

As a longtime Santa Claus at a suburban Chicago mall, Rod Riemersma used to jokingly tell children they would get socks for Christmas if they were naughty.

This year, he stopped telling the joke. Too many children are asking for socks.

“They’ve probably heard their parents say, ‘Geez, I wish I had some money to get them clothes,’” says the 56-year-old Riemersma.

A wintry measure of hard times can be found this holiday season on the knees of white-bearded, red-suited men around the country. A couple of years ago, children were shooting for the moon, asking St. Nick for Xboxes, iPods and laptops. But with the economy still fragile, many children are requesting basics such as shoes, library cards and even eyeglasses, say dozens of Santas who work at malls or on the party circuit.

“Kids will hear the E-word, but it’s not Elmo,” says Tim Connaghan, who runs a Los Angeles Santa-training school. “It’s the economy.”

The extent to which money woes are weighing on children is clear from the letters flooding into North Pole, Alaska. That’s the home of the Santa Claus House, a Christmas-themed shop where parents can order letters from Santa with a North Pole postmark. It gets tens of thousands of letters to Santa every year. Operations manager Paul Brown says the messages not only predict the holiday’s hottest toys months in advance but also gauge the mood of the nation.

“When we had the housing crunch, we saw ‘Please help us stay in our house,’” Brown says of the letters, which are forwarded to a nonprofit that works with charities in the children’s hometowns. “This year, it’s more job-related.”

The Kriss Kringles of America are doing their best to help children cope. Anticipating a deluge of recession-related questions, Connaghan in November sent advice to his e-mail network of 1,800 Santas.

The tips included telling worried children that “things will get better” and asking if Santa could “bring a surprise,” instead of promising specific gifts. The job of a Santa “is to make the child feel better,” he counseled. He suggested that Santas refer children to local charities to find Christmas gifts.

That’s what Jim Lewis did. A Santa at a Bass Pro Shop outdoor-goods store in Denver, he blanched when a blond girl in a red plaid dress recently asked for a pair of eyeglasses so she could see the classroom board. He recovered in time to motion over one of his elves, who told the girl’s mother about the local Lions Club, which helps provide needy children with prescription glasses.

“It would be wonderful if we could grant more wishes like that, but unfortunately, this is the exception to the rule,” says the 60-year-old Lewis, a real-estate appraiser when he takes off the Santa suit.

Sometimes even the best training can’t keep Santa from being caught off guard. Mike Smith, who works as Santa at the Polaris Fashion Place in Columbus, Ohio, says a 5-year-old girl wearing a Dora the Explorer sweat shirt last month hopped in his lap and asked, “Can you turn my daddy into an elf?” “Why?” he asked.

“Because my daddy’s out of work, and we’re about to lose our house,” she said.

The girl’s mother, standing by her little brother’s stroller, burst into tears. A stunned Smith asked the girl if her father was good with a hammer, and the girl said yes. “I didn’t know what to say after that, so we just took the picture,” he says with regret.

Santa as economic indicator
Santas aren’t precise economic indicators, of course. Government data out Dec. 11 showed that retail sales inched up in November from October. And not every Kringle is reporting a difference in what children are requesting this year. Many of the 40-some Santas interviewed for this article say they work with affluent children whose requests are as bold as ever.

Kelly Crais, who plays Santa in the New Orleans area, says the children he sees at some parties still ask for a PlayStation 3, which starts at $299, and other wallet-busting gifts. But the children he sees for free at his local Harrah’s Hotel & Casino have downgraded their lists from previous years. One 7-year-old boy recently asked for shoes. “Do you want Air Jordans?” Crais asked.

The boy responded, “No, school shoes. My shoes have holes in them.”

Crais, a 67-year-old retired commercial artist, called over his photographer, who told the boy’s mother about local charities.

Some older children say they have scaled back their gift requests. Christian Portillo, a 17-year-old community-college student in San Francisco, recently went to a mall to visit Santa for some family photos. He says he typically would have asked for Xbox 360 video games for Christmas. But his father, Cesar, an information-technology staff member at the cash-strapped University of California at Berkeley, had his salary slashed about 10% this year.

So, the younger Portillo says, “Now all I want is a bike rack.” His parents got one for him on Craigslist, where they say they are scrounging for secondhand gifts this year.

Even some parents are sharing their worries with Santa. Loren Smith, a 56-year-old talent agent who works as Santa at Sea World in San Diego, says he often leans over to mothers and says, “You haven’t talked to Santa for a good long time. What do you want for Christmas?”

“I’d just like to get my job back,” responded one woman last week. The woman said she lost her airline management job, and the two talked about the economy for a few minutes. “I stepped out of character,” Smith says. “I don’t do that very often.”

Continued below…

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Posted: 18 December 2009 05:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Continued from above…

Yet even this year, there are still jolly moments. One occurred for Riemersma in suburban Chicago recently, when some children brought their 88-year-old grandmother to see him.

“Oh, no, I haven’t sat on a man’s lap in years,” the woman said, before she reluctantly climbed on. But after a moment, she grinned at him and said, “But guess what, Santa. I still like it.”

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Posted: 18 December 2009 10:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I know a lot of people that are having a “hard candy Christmas” this year.  If nothing else, it makes the things you do have a reason to be thankful for shine all the brighter….. grin

*sigh*

This story makes me want to go right out, hug a little kid, and make everything “all better”.  (Though I supposed if I went up to some strange kid in a mall and tried it, they would put me in jail…. after the parents got through with me!) wink

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Posted: 18 December 2009 10:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Sadly, the story and stories suggests to a lot of folks that this is a new happening and maybe it is for a more massive population.  However, many children, a very large percent of them over decades have lived worse and wished and prayed for much more even than these little ones because those children never knew that Santa Claus was for everyone; these children believed they were on the outside always and not ‘allowed’ Christmas ever.

One family I knew with three boys and one girl were living with their mother in a motel.  The older brother decided one year to wrap up empty boxes and then put them under a little tree I believe they scavaged.  All of them knew the boxes were empty but they wanted to pretend.  When the landlord came to the door to collect his weekly rent he was so incensed when he the mother said she didn’t have the rent yet but he could see those packages under the tree and started to holler.  The older brother tried to explain that the boxes were empty but the landlord didn’t believe him until all the boxes had been unwrapped and proof of the non-contents was revealed. 

As far as I understood it, the boxes were not re-wrapped since they had no more wrapping paper.  I knew this family personally.  Until the kids became adults (the oldest died in his late teens after being hit by a drunk driver when he was crossing a road in his wheelchair-he was rushed to the hospital but left to die in the corridor because the family had no health insurance nor other viable funds), they really had no concept of shelter and decent food let alone Christmas or Santa Claus.

I feel for every child no matter what their age is.

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Posted: 19 December 2009 02:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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There are some western countries where no short-sighted little girls need to go without glasses, where all little boys have decent shoes, where advanced, hi-tech healthcare is free and where everybody have socks without holes in them. These are still capitalist countries, but in the U.S., the system just doesn’t seem to work.

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Posted: 19 December 2009 05:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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My husband is getting two Hawaiian shirts   Good Hawaiian Shirts  OK, I’m not so much spamming as I’m telling you they are good quality and they mail them out REAL quick if you forgot that Hawiian shirt buff on your list and your’re snowed in.

One pair of Jeans

Each dog gave him a $25 Visa gift card.  That’s not much by a lot of people’s standards, but I cringe when I hear friends and coworkers spending thousands of dollars on gifts.  I usually spend $50 to buy a needy family Christmas dinner through Kroger, but this year it’ll probably be just one.

I really can’t count on getting him anything I know he’ll like except clothes.

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Posted: 19 December 2009 06:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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I always end up spending a lot of money on my kids because I know neither of them can afford that much for themselves and certainly not for me.  I already have all the toys and stuff I could ever want and I know my kids aren’t in the same position so I always go a little overboard.  Times aren’t as tough for a lot of people up here as they are down in the states but there are still the families that need the help.  I always make sure to drop something in one of the Sally Ann kettles whenever I go by one.

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Posted: 20 December 2009 01:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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gray - 19 December 2009 11:33 PM

I always end up spending a lot of money on my kids because I know neither of them can afford that much for themselves and certainly not for me.  I already have all the toys and stuff I could ever want and I know my kids aren’t in the same position so I always go a little overboard.  Times aren’t as tough for a lot of people up here as they are down in the states but there are still the families that need the help.  I always make sure to drop something in one of the Sally Ann kettles whenever I go by one.

That’s very respectable , Grey.

I remember my Jr. High school friends spending $250.00 on Christmas gifts for their boyfriends in 1973.  I hope they were lying.

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Posted: 20 December 2009 09:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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hulitoons - 19 December 2009 03:30 AM

I knew this family personally.  Until the kids became adults (the oldest died in his late teens after being hit by a drunk driver when he was crossing a road in his wheelchair-he was rushed to the hospital but left to die in the corridor because the family had no health insurance nor other viable funds),..........

I know there is a difference between the Health System in the US and the Health System here in Australia. But I can’t fathom how a hospital could let somebody die like that without somebody being liable for manslaughter or a similar charge.

I mean the hospital as a legal entity is letting somebody die simply because they don’t have the money? That’s really blown my mind away.

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Posted: 21 December 2009 09:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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We are getting each other nothing and the kids toys leftover from the wife’s ebay days.  Christmas is at the worst time of the year if you ask me.

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Posted: 21 December 2009 05:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Peter - 20 December 2009 02:47 PM
hulitoons - 19 December 2009 03:30 AM

I knew this family personally.  Until the kids became adults (the oldest died in his late teens after being hit by a drunk driver when he was crossing a road in his wheelchair-he was rushed to the hospital but left to die in the corridor because the family had no health insurance nor other viable funds),..........

I know there is a difference between the Health System in the US and the Health System here in Australia. But I can’t fathom how a hospital could let somebody die like that without somebody being liable for manslaughter or a similar charge.

I mean the hospital as a legal entity is letting somebody die simply because they don’t have the money? That’s really blown my mind away.

You know, you’d think so Peter, but them I’m reminded that while I worked for the State Correctional system one key point that we had to adhere to was this:  If an inmate dies while in the institution for whatever reason, we call the ambulance anyway as if he/she is still breathing or as if their heart is still beating.  Pronunciation of death must be made by the paremedics while the patient is en route or has been already delivered to the hospital.  This is the way reports were advised to be written.  I remember asking how we might legally do that if the inmate’s head (for example) had been cut off and being advised by our instructor that ‘as far as YOU know, that had nothing to do with the heart still beating’.

It is relatively easy to compose a report advising that a patient bled out or expired at a point in time that will not indite any hospital personnel.

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