connectVideoBlind, autistic boy seeing Santa for the first time
Photos of Texas boy, who is blind, autistic, to ‘see’ Santa for the first time go viral.
The man in the flashy red suit gets all the glory. But in Santa Claus, Ind., it takes a village of the little helpers to keep the St. Nick legend alive.
Since the small Midwestern city — population 2,411 — was featured in “Ripley’s Believe it or Not” in 1930, the United States Postal Service started “unofficially” the forwarding of letters to santa Claus.
With Santa busy with Christmas preparations, his team of “elves” steps in tackling the overflowing mail bag.
“We get letters from all over the United States and almost every country,” chief elf Pat Koch, 87, tells The Post. “Santa letters, even if they are addressed to the north pole or the arctic circle, they come to Santa Claus, Ind.”
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According to postmaster Marian Balbach, the city receives 20,000 to 25,000 letters to santa Claus each year. Koch leads her team of all ages volunteers in the direction of a lofty goal: to make sure that each child gets a personal letter from the big man. Her elves say that she runs a tight ship.
“Mrs. Koch is extremely committed,” says volunteer eleven Ceege Price, 31. “I know a lot of people like to say that they are strict [but] I think she just likes things a certain way.”
“I believe that the organization, it is important to achieve what we want to achieve,” Koch says, soberly.
Her methods results: On the fifth day of the big holiday push, with post boxes are already overcrowded with 4000 letters signed, sealed and ready to be delivered.
A rule of the crew follows? Never to make promises they can’t keep.
“I actually had a child ask for a cow this year. Santa’s elves here, not the promise of a cow,” says eleven Joyce Robinson, 72, who went about in elfhood after 20 years as a librarian.
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They had to answer the hard questions, also.
“Each letter stays with you,” Robinson says. “A young man, he was handicapped, and [the letter] begins with:” Dear Santa, please tell my parents I’m handicapped — not stupid,’ she says, tearing up.
Her personal favorite letters of children whose parents are deployed. “I make sure and say,” If I fly over Afghanistan or Iraq, I dive down and see how dad’s doing, OK?’ “
It’s all part of keeping the magic of Christmas alive, says Koch, who began answering letters in 1946, when her father was known as the “Real santa Claus” of Indiana in Santa Claus Land, the world’s first theme park, now known as Holiday World.
“Santa Claus embodies everything we all ought to be,” she says. “A person so much. Someone who loves so much. Someone who’s to give and make people happy, anyway?”
This story was previously published in the New York Post.