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Children turn to Kris Kringle during hard times

By Staff | Dec 20, 2008

Twas’ the week before Christmas and local Santa Clauses are mobilizing alongside their elfin helpers to hear holiday requests from thousands of good little girls and boys.
Most of these Saint Nicks are volunteers who moonlight as the jolly old man to bring joy into children’s lives. This weekend they will contend with thousands of shoppers — over 41 million who are just beginning to shop, according to the National Retail Federation.
Arthur Abrahamsen, a maintenance specialist at the Cape Coral Yacht Club, has dressed up as Santa for the past seven years.
“I love kids and I’ll do anything for kids,” he said. “I wish I had a million dollars and I’d be the real Santa Claus for them.”
Besides making an appearance at Four Freedoms Park, Abrahamsen also will portray the iconic figure during Sunday’s Boat-A-Long. As Santa he is dressed like a king, jingling as he walks and talks over the intercom, and will sit in his decorated chair near a long line of children.
The children typically ask for the same thing every year, he said.
“They ask for the new toys today,” he said. “Bikes and dolls, a lot of i-Pods and stuff like that.”
Electronics and video games are in high demand this holiday season — the Nintendo Wii, various video games, and the Xbox 360 were all on the NRF’s Top Toys of 2008 list. Children also are asking for classics such as Barbie dolls, Disney Princesses, Transformers, Star War toys and Hot Wheels.
This season has sparked some stress among local parents who are concerned they won’t be able to afford presents. In some cases Abrahamsen said that children have asked for money to help their parents.
“Most of them are poor and they are looking for money, shoes or family things,” he said.
In one case a child asked him for a Christmas tree and money to help out the child’s family.
“That is a wish for Christmas, that I have a lot of money to take care of children all over the world,” said Abrahamsen.
Each holiday season he meets with over 100 children in one afternoon –including the good, the bad and the ugly.
Most children are well-behaved, he said, but some get scared and begin crying or weeping, young toddlers will have accidents in his lap, and certain teenagers will try ruin the experience for everyone.
“If the little toddler poops on me it comes with the territory,” he said. “I get no nasty kids, but I keep a watch on it. I can tell when a 14-year-old is coming up to me and is up to no good.”
Because there have been documented cases of costumed characters such as Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny being physically taunted, many of these characters learn to be on the lookout.
Bonnie Beauchesne, a letter carrier at the Cape Coral Post Office, answers all of the letters addressed to Santa Claus from children in the city. This year she sent 2,000 replies children in Cape Coral.
According to Debra Mitchell, spokesperson for the post office, the letter campaign is a year-long project by Beauchesne and one other helper who personally decorates all of the envelopes.
“Santa has a little elf here in Cape coral who works for him,” said Mitchell.
Mitchell explained that many of the letters to Santa are from children whose main concern is helping their family.
“A lot of kids this year are asking for things like finding my daddy a job. They have a different tone to them this year,” she said.
Santa Clauses at Edison Mall in Fort Myers are contracted through The Noerr Program, a national corporation specializing in Digital Event Imaging. Officials from the mall said that the Santas will be inundated with children this weekend who accompany their parents shopping – those who still have shopping to do before Dec. 25.
According to a survey by BIGResearch, only 8 percent of shoppers said they had finished. And most of the purchases this year are on practical items and not luxuries.
“Most Americans have put themselves on a budget this holiday season and are sticking to it,” said Phil Rist, the executive vice president of Strategic Initiatives at BIGResearch.
The survey stated that 44.8 percent of gifts are clothing, 40.8 percent are CDs, DVDs or video games, 33.1 percent are toys and 24.5 percent are electronics. Clothing continues to be the greatest seller this year, according to the survey.