Recently, I had the joy of playing Santa for about nine hundred kids, for a non-profit my wife and I helped found called Estamos Unidos de Pennsylvania which provides educational scholarships and leadership opportunities for the youth in our community who otherwise don’t have access to appropriate resources or funds. This is my fifteenth year playing Santa Claus.
The organization is totally volunteer-run. The annual Christmas party for the children, called La Fiesta de Niño, started as a sub sandwich sale in the hopes of feeding some people and giving toys away for those who needed a little Christmas cheer. Over the years the project grew beyond what we could ever imagine; there is now entertainment, community-service vendors, and over a thousand gifts are donated and given away to families and children.
La Fiesta de Niño is always the day that Christmas begins for me. It is a day to remember how fortunate I am to have been given so much through my life. I had a stable home, complete with storybook Christmas Eves, tree decorating and Christmas cookies. Toys and gifts abounded and the aroma of food fill every room in the house. I fondly remember those moments. When the kids look into my eyes with such awe, I realize that most of them never will have the Christmas experience I had growing up.
I am in a curious position, being the coroner of Dauphin County. December is busy for me; homicides, drug deaths and accidents always increase over the holidays. Each day I am reminded that as songs of joy and hope play over the radio, and grocery stores and department stores fill up with last minute shoppers, there are others out there just praying for another day of survival.
We must be aware and share the gift of love for those who have never had that storybook Christmas. It is when we give that we realize that this is the greatest gift of all—knowing that we are all brother and sisters.
Happy Holidays & Merry Christmas to you and your loved ones.