Making Grown Men Cry and Enjoying It

What an odd thing to say, “Making grown men cry and enjoying it.” Not to say that the moms don’t cry but it isn’t any fun seeing moms crying. Perhaps Santa needs to explain, so here goes. The vast majority of the work I do traveling the world delivering toys to boys and girls is tiring but very enjoyable and very rewarding. I have been known to be a very jolly fellow and not known for crying or occasionally shedding a tear but…
First of all Santa has a little bit of human mixed in with his elf and mythological blood. I am jolly in nature but even I can be moved occasionally to tearing up and yes even crying. The Sheriff’s Santa Project is involved with many groups of people and we make many stops and deliveries. We drop off toys, gifts and Christmas Stockings to approximately 300 people each year. We get to deliver to WEAVE which is probably the most enjoyable of all the visits. The kids are all healthy and very energetic and Santa and his elves cannot stop smiling during and after the visit to the shelter.

Delivering to the hospital can be a little more challenging for Santa to hide his emotions and he has noticed that many of the fathers of child patients in the hospital tend to tear up at the site of their child interacting with Santa. They do not tear up or cry out of sadness, they tear up out of seeing their child, who only moments earlier appeared sad and lethargic become happy, energetic and excited at the mere site of Santa and his elves entering the room. I noticed that the more serious the condition of the child the more the tears flow from the parents, fathers in particular. Occasionally Santa needs to take a break while roaming from room to room to freshen up or to take a drink of water (drinking water helps because it not only stops the tears but it also refills the tear ducts for further leakage).

I will tell you the most powerful and impactful of all visits is the visit to the home. By the end of the visit most of the adults in the house are fighting back tears and yes it is usually the father that is the most emotional. At first contact with Santa the family gathers their emotions as they sing songs and Santa interacts with the children. Then when the visit is all said and done, the family hugs Santa and his entourage. This is when it becomes emotional for Santa as the parents hug a little tighter and hold on a little longer whispering, “ Thank you, we really needed this!”, in Santa’s ear. Santa smiles, gives a loud belly laugh and a “hohoho” as he is walking towards his sleigh. He does not dare look back as the family may get a glimpse of Santa tearing up or getting emotional. Into the sled Santa goes and Mrs. Claus quickly produces a towel or a box full of Klenex because she knows what is about to happen to Santa. She says quietly as they drive away, “It’s fun watching grown men cry”.

The Practical Joker and Hanging with Santa

JJ a preteen was bedridden and in and out of the hospital for months. Santa, along with a couple of Elves and Members of the Rancho Cordova Police Department were able to catch JJ and his entire family at home a few days before Christmas. JJ and his family had been so busy dealing with his issues and treatments that took him back and forth to the hospital they had not had time or the energy to decorate their house. 

A week before Christmas Santa was able to make a special delivery to JJ’s family.  What the family didn’t know was Santa’s entourage was prepared to “Christmas up the House”. We brought a Christmas Tree along with ornaments and lights for the tree and with help from members of the family decorated the tree (which was near the end of JJ’s bed so he could see it at all times) and the rest of the house with the help of the elves and the officers from Rancho Cordova Police Department. JJ’s brothers (all older than JJ) were overjoyed about the visit and happily posed for several pictures with Santa and the officers from Rancho Cordova Police Department just “chillin” on the couch watching television. 

Then Santa started handing out presents to the family and finally to the guest of honor JJ himself. His brothers opened the gifts for JJ because he could not open them on his own. JJ because he cannot use his voice or arms right now has learned to communicate and talk by utilizing an eye tracking speech generating device. One of the items Santa gave to JJ was a telephone that was compatible with his eye tracking device allowing him to make phone calls. This did not seem to impress JJ very much. 

One of the last things JJ’s brothers helped him open were gag gifts (fake puke etc,) and one gag gift in particular generated a smile and a look in JJ’s eyes that anyone could see was pure happiness. His brothers all started laughing out loud and joking when one of the brothers produced a whoopie cushion. For those of you that don’t know what a whoopie cushion is, it is a rubber pouch that you blow up and put on someone’s seat just before they sit down and it produces the sound of someone .. well how do I say it, “a farting noise”. As it turns out even after becoming bedridden JJ is still a practical joker and with the help of his colluding brothers continue to torment each other with practical jokes. 

We left Santa gifts along with stuffed Christmas stockings for each of the family members including mom and dad along with other wrapped gifts for under the tree to be opened on Christmas morning. Mrs. Claus has kept in touch with mom since the visit and all she asks for is for us to keep JJ and the entire family in our prayers. This we have gladly done since it is something we do quite often for all the families we come in contact with. 

LUCAS AND THE DEPUTIES

One of the families that Santa and his elves visited this year was the home of Lucas a preteen with an infectious smile. Prior to the visit Santa contacted Sheriff Jones and asked if he could invite a couple of deputies to tag along on the visit. Deputy Phillips and Deputy McDonald graciously accepted the invitation on behalf of the Sacramento Sheriff’s Office. 

Off to Lucas’ home went Santa and his elves where they met up with Deputy Phillips and Deputy McDonald. Santa explained to the deputies not to be jealous if Lucas did not pay much attention to them because after all Santa is the super- hero today. 

Santa entered the house where he found Lucas and his family waiting anxiously for Santa and his “entourage”. Lucas was all a glow and enjoyed opening his gifts with the rest of his family, however the whole time Santa noticed that Lucas’ attention was fixed on the two deputies. Lucas continually turned and looked at the deputies with the biggest grin on his face Santa had ever seen. Of all the smiles of all the visits by Santa, he had never seen a smile as big and as pleasing as the one on Lucas’ face when he looked at the deputies. Now Santa isn’t used to playing second fiddle to anyone but he could clearly see who were the stars of this visit. Santa asked Lucas if he wanted to have his picture taken with Santa but before he could even finish the question he ran over and hugged Deputy Phillips and then Deputy McDonald. They both knelt and together pinned a sticker badge on Lucas’ chest. Lucas then posed for several pictures with Deputy Phillips and Deputy McDonald and eventually even posed for a picture with Santa and his elves.  

A special thanks to Sheriff Jones and especially Deputy Phillips and Deputy McDonald for making the Christmas of 2018 one of the most memorable ones for Lucas and his family. Truth be told I think even Santa was impressed with Lucas’ response to the deputies.  

What We Do

How the Santa Project works with families of children with long term, life threatening or terminal illnesses.

Santa has a special request line for Tammy and Traci, the two Child Life Specialists that work with the families and hospital social workers to identify the neediest families and pediatric patients that are going through an indescribable situation. We focus on the entire family. Most of the time in these types of situations, time, attention, energy and money understandably goes towards the child with the illness and sometimes the siblings feel left out or overlooked. What the Santa Project does is identifies the needs of the family and then gets a Santa wish list from each of the children in the family. We get games the entire family can play together and each of the children and the parents get gifts and toys picked out especially for them. Santa also leaves a Christmas Stocking stuffed to the top chosen just for them.

We deliver to the house a few days before Christmas and we deliver with Santa, Mrs. Claus, a couple of actual elves and a Deputy in uniform. We have several Santa’s that speak languages other than English and have been called on to do so over the years. We sing songs and unwrap gifts with them. We allow them to take all the pictures they want with us and sometimes they allow us to post some of those pictures. We have the families open a few gifts during Santa’s visit just to give them a glimpse of what is to come on Christmas morning. While Santa is entertaining the children, Santa’s helpers along with the Deputy unload Santa’s sleigh. We leave the stuffed handmade Christmas stockings (donated by the Toy project and made by some of their elves) along with several presents for each family member living in the residence. This includes the big gift from Santa, usually bikes, helmets, Barbie Dream houses, giant Lego sets and other items requested by the kids in the family. When the kids wake up Christmas morning, they find Santa has not forgot them. Santa will even put from mom and/or dad name tags on the gifts to put under the tree before Christmas morning.

We have arranged stays, and purchased tickets for Disneyland and six flags ( some family trips have been paid for and donated by the Sheriff’s Department employees and private parties), we have delivered and installed washing machines and dryers and even a stove, we have delivered dressers, beds, televisions and countless tablets and hand- held computer games. We try to identify what type of gift cards each individual family needs during this traumatic time and put them in their Christmas stocking. We purchase gift cards to local eating establishments (McDonalds, Denny’s, Sizzler, etc..) to help with the constant back and forth to the hospital visits. Some just need to grab a coffee or something to drink such as Starbucks, Jambe Juice or Dutch Brothers while waiting on the treatment for the child to finish

We deliver boxes of food, grocery gift cards, gas gift cards and cards to department stores. We are only able to do all these things because perfect strangers like yourselves, businesses, companies and personal friends of ours donate, money, toys, gifts cards and time to the Santa Project every year. Nobody associated with the Sheriff Santa Project receives compensation for what they do, everyone is a volunteer in the true sense of the word and volunteer their time graciously. We get as much pleasure and satisfaction doing this as the families get who receive these blessings.

Merry Christmas and God Bless from Santa Mike, family and friends.

Santa Saves the Day

So, the other morning I was having coffee with Mrs. Claus when we heard a knock-on the door. I wasn’t surprised when I opened the door and there he was in all his pink glory the Easter Bunny or “Bugs” as I call him. He usually stops by this time of year just to say, “hello” or to ask for a favor. Who does the Easter Bunny call when he needs a helping hand? That’s right Santa Claus! This year the Easter Bunny noticed that the cabinets at the WEAVE shelter were a little empty so he decided to ask me if the Santa Project could help him out. He told me that he could take care of the Easter Baskets, candy and other stuff for the kids but didn’t have enough time to grocery shop or collect food items to deliver to them. I told Bugs that we would be happy to take care of it. I contacted Mrs. Paula at WEAVE and told her Bugs had contacted us and asked if we could help. Paula was very happy to hear we were willing to help and gave me a list of a few items they could use. We only had a couple of days to collect and deliver the food items.

I contacted Pastor Dean of Real-Life Church in Natomas. I told him I only had a few days to gather what we needed, and he said he would put the word out to his team of leaders. A couple days later I picked up the food from the church and along with other items purchased by the Santa Project we were able to provide the WEAVE shelter with the food items they needed. I loaded up the sleigh and off I went to the WEAVE shelter (incognito of course) We were able to provide the Shelter with 3 hams, 2 turkeys, 4 chickens, 4 cases of vegetables, 6 large boxes of instant Mashed potatoes and lots of gravy. We also provided them with a dozen boxes of cake mix and several boxes of fruit snacks.

Don’t worry, Santa has his elves everywhere and even though it isn’t the Christmas season he still watches and tends to those in need.

Angel

Angel was eight years old and what she wanted for Christmas for her mother to get a new shirt, her dad to get some jeans and a shirt for work, a vacuum, a set of knife and forks and some dishes. Angel asked for nothing for herself. Tammy and Tracey (child life specialists at Kaiser hospital) tried but she only wanted them to have the things they needed, nothing frivolous, and nothing extravagant. So, over the next couple of weeks Tammy and Tracy just conversed with her about some of the things that her and her siblings would want for themselves from Santa. Eventually we found out the three kids (Angel and her two siblings) had no toys and only a couple of games that had missing pieces.

We decided all three kids would be getting bikes with helmets and lock, plenty of board games and toys that they specifically asked for on a list they wrote out to Santa. I had trouble speaking to the parents because they only spoke in broken English but I had an ace in the hole, Santa always has helpers that speak multiple languages and Santa himself has been known to know a few languages.

The day came when Santa was to visit the family in their home. Santa, Mrs. Claus, a deputy, myself and a couple of elves entered the residence. We found a very small house with no Christmas decorations, very few utensils and not much in the way of furniture. The biggest surprise for the family and especially the parents was that Santa spoke their language perfectly and seeing the surprise and happiness of that family when Santa spoke to all of them in their native tongue was beyond description. The first thing we did was bring in a Christmas tree and decorations for the family and explained to them that they had to put the tree up and all the decorations on it before Santa could deliver the gifts on Christmas morning. Santa started handing out gifts for the kids and telling them stories of Rudolf and his buddies. While Santa, Mrs. Claus and one elf were busy with the kids another elf (a bilingual Deputy) and I spoke to the parents and explained in their language that even though the kids are opening a couple of gifts today we had stuff directly from the north pole that was to be placed in hiding until Christmas morning. We gave them the bikes and helmets for each of the kids as well as several other gifts, we told the parents even they could not peek into the boxes of gifts until Christmas morning when they would help Santa by putting everything out under and around the Christmas tree for him. We also left Christmas stockings for each of the family members.  The parents and the kids continued to repeat a phrase repeatedly and when I asked Santa what they were saying he simply replied, “they could not believe Santa spoke Spanish”.

According to Tammy and Tracy the family was overwhelmed with the generosity they showed and could not stop talking about how Santa spoke Spanish.

Weird Gifts

Santa has received some weird requests for gifts on some of the lists and each time reluctantly Santa delivers them and to his surprise it is exactly what they wanted. That sounds weird right! Well let me explain, when I see a new vacuum for a 5-year-old or a gift card for Nordstrom’s for an 8-year-old boy or a craftsman tool set for 4-year-old twins then I Santa knows to ask a few additional questions and usually find out that someone a little older added that to the children’s list.

But kids request the “darndest things”. Last year the Santa Project visited one of the families from Kaiser and the 7-year-old girl (we will call her Shay) asked for the normal things, a bike, barbie doll house with Barbies etc. but she also wanted a microscope, wait a microscope, she’s only 7. Her 6-year-old brother (we will call him Dave) of course wanted a horse, super heroes, lots of Legos and a telescope, no, really a telescope! Now Santa was skeptical, so Santa picked up his phone and called the parents and the mom adamantly stated that is what they wanted, a telescope and a microscope. Normally I would leave them for under the tree, but curiosity got the better of me. During the Santa visit we let each member of the family open two or three gifts each. The rest of the gifts along with the Christmas stockings and the large Santa gift are left with the parents or relatives to be put out on Christmas Eve/morning.  On this delivery Santa decided the kids would open the telescope and the Microscope at the same time during the visit.

Santa arrives, and the kids are out of their minds excited to the point that I am laughing just watching them both telling Santa what they want at the same time, you see on home deliveries I get to be a big Elf for Santa, so I get to sit back and watch the magic happen. Dave opens an action hero and a Lego set and looks happy, but his enthusiasm seems to have dissipated as did Shay’s when she opened her barbie and a tea set. Don’t get me wrong they liked the first gifts but there was a little bit of exuberance missing that was there when we arrived. Mom and dad opened their gifts and were very thankful that we even thought about them. The kids were happy, and grandma and dad and mom were happy also. Just before we were going to take pictures Santa realized he had two gifts left in his bag and pulled them out. Both kids knew exactly what the gifts were and before they even opened them Shay looked at her mom and said “I knew Santa was real and he knows what we want”. With that they opened the telescope and the microscope and Shay explained that when she got older, she wanted to go to school and become a scientist, and Dave, well he just smiled the biggest smile I personally have ever seen.  Hugs and photos and off we went on our merry way.

Jonathan

Last minute shopping for Santa. Conor’s family, bunkbeds check, dresser check, gardening book for dad and glitter otter box phone cover for mom, no problem!

Unicorn Girl

Last minute shopping for Santa. Conor’s family, bunkbeds check, dresser check, gardening book for dad and glitter otter box phone cover for mom, no problem!

CONOR’S FAMILY

Last minute shopping for Santa. Conor’s family, bunkbeds check, dresser check, gardening book for dad and glitter otter box phone cover for mom, no problem!