- Special Sections
- Public Notices
It’s the time of year when visions of dolls and toys are usually dancing in children's heads. But the Christmas, some Santas are hearing requests of a different sort.
Robert Summers, who plays Santa for the Red Cross, has already visited several area churches and has traveled to Fort Jackson. He plans on visiting libraries, daycares and the University of South Carolina at Lancaster. This is his fifth year playing Santa.
For the first time, he said children’s minds seem to be focused on jobs for parents, the economy and the Iraqi war, as well as toys.
One little girl that sat on Summer’s lap decided to forgo asking for toys this year, instead asking Santa to reunite her family.
“She said she wanted to get her mom and dad back together. They are separated and one is out of work,” Summers said. “She wanted them to get back together for Christmas, and for one to find a job.”
Many children he spoke with have parents and family members in the military stationed overseas.
“A little boy said he had a dad in Iraq and would like to have him home,” Summers said. “That’s how things go in the military. It’s a little bit hard to hear.”
Summers said one girl in Fort Jackson “knocked me off my feet.”
“She didn’t want anything. She just wanted to dedicate her life to Jesus Christ,” he said. “The kids there are a little different and have the military on their mind. They have people going to Iraq and are little bit closer to their parents.”
Summers still loves listening to children getting involved in the holiday spirit.
“I’ll continue to do this as long as I’m able,” he said.
Gene Ghent has been playing Santa for 10 years, with regular appearances at Big Lots and Hardee’s in Lancaster. This year, Ghent will also make an appearance at The White House, a specialty gift shop that just opened in Heath Springs. Every year, Ghent receives requests for the usual toys, but sometimes he crosses paths with a child who wants something a little ordinary.
One child stands out in his mind this year. After hearing several children ask for an array of expensive toys, Ghent said one little girl asked for something simple.
“With her eyes full of hope, she said, ‘I’d like you to bring me a box of crayons,” he said. “Tears almost came to my eyes and I almost got up to buy it for her.”
Ghent said it’s important for Santa to be “a jolly person” who enjoys interacting with children.
“It’s fun. I enjoy doing it,” Ghent said. “It’s always a big part of my Christmas.”
Barbara Brewer said she’s heard all sorts of requests during the last five years she’s portrayed Mrs. Claus, with her husband, David, as Santa.
An 8-year-old girl who the Brewers spoke with on the Santa Express, which traveled from Lancaster to Heath Springs, last weekend caught the Brewers by surprise. Instead of asking for toys for herself, the youngster asked Santa to make sure every child got what they wanted.
“I couldn’t believe the child asked for that, it was something so precious,” Barbara Brewer said. “It was so sweet. And she’s still young enough that it was a real surprise.”
Still room for fun
Not all children’s wish lists are so serious this Christmas. Summers said most children are still interested in the hottest toys and latest gadgets. He’s had plenty of requests for iPods and video game systems, like the Xbox 360 or the Nintendo Wii, as well as for old standards like baby dolls and bicycles.
Brewer has seen plenty of the normal requests for four-wheelers and action figures, but a few specialty items have caught her attention. She and her husband were shocked by the number of small children asking for laptop computers this year. She said two kids even asked for pet horses. When requests like that come along, she usually steers them back towards items their parents can purchase, like Hannah Montana toys.
Ghent said its always interesting to hear what children want for Christmas. Most of those that ask him for toys are between the ages of 2 and 6 years old, and they always love telling him what gifts they hope to see under the tree on Christmas Day.
“At that age, Santa is still popular,” Ghent said. “The magic is still there.”