These dedicated gentlemen are not alone. You can find at least a half-dozen other Santa’s Helpers between here and downtown Macon. It’s a true calling. And in these times of tested traditions, Santa’s Helpers are leading a valiant crusade in keeping a cherished custom alive.
Each Christmas season, they get to experience what is true in this world, and that truth comes out of the mouths of babes. Most of the requests made to Santa’s Helpers are to be expected, some comical, many of them wrenching and the Helpers must be equipped to respond to a child’s Christmas list with patience, thoughtfulness, honesty, and especially caring.
When we sat down with our local Santa’s Helpers, they each came to life “in character” while reflecting on their work in helping Santa. There was a camaraderie immediately felt in the group – not a hint of competitiveness or one-upmanship – just a sharing of their stories.
For skeptical kids who start out by declaring, “You’re not the real Santa,” Santa Duane has the perfect retort, “All Santa’s Helpers look like the real Santa and we get to talk to Santa every day. I do. So, have you been good?” This always elicits a nod of “Yes.” Santa Everrett concurs, “I say to them that Santa is real in here (Pointing to his heart). I get to be his Helper and to look just like him.”
Undoubtedly, being a Santa’s Helper brings with it a huge responsibility when sitting with children who have special needs, emotional issues, or who are from broken homes. Santa Mike chimes in with, “In the end, it’s our responsibility to give them all hope.”
One of the most common questions kids ask is, “If I’m at my grandma’s house, can you still find me?” And of course, the answer is always, “Yes.” “And the kids put all sorts of things on their Christmas list for Santa,” said Santa Mike. “One child asked for a parrot, and another wanted a new dog because his dog had just died. Some want electronics, and I see their parents catching my eye saying ‘No!’ So, I tell them Santa’s elves don’t know how to make electronics.” A funny moment came for Santa Everrett when a little girl sat on his lap looking frustrated, He asked her, “And where have you been?” To which she replied, “I’ve been everywhere, Santa! Looking for you – all day!”
Santa Duane quietly then added an endearing episode, “I had a child ask Santa for a brand-new kidney and that humbled my heart immediately. You have to care – they can see it. You have to know that caring is who Santa is.” All of Santa’s Helpers nodded in support.
Of course, not all goes smoothly during a Santa’s Helper seating. More than once, Helpers quietly try to ignore the inevitable – accidents. “This little girl was waiting in line for a long time,” says, Santa John, “and when she finally got to sit on Santa’s lap, she was so nervous, she had an accident of the bladder. My boots got wet. Neither she nor I let on.” Now that’s what the real Santa would have done and what a true Helper would do in the line of duty.
Richmond Hill and neighboring stretches are endowed with some very talented and dedicated Santa’s Helpers who eagerly serve this community and the children within it – children of all ages. They keep the spirit of Christmas alive in their hearts and in their character. They truly believe in Santa Claus – and they’re big people too.