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Santa Run to depart from fire station Dec. 23

By Staff | Dec 16, 2015

Forty-two years ago Dick Muench began a Santa Run on Sanibel after implementing a similar program in Syracuse, New York attracting 17 Santa Clauses to deliver presents.

“I thought it would be a great idea to start it down here,” the Sanibel-Captiva Kiwanis Club member said. “It’s just a really great thing for the community.”

Christmas of 1973, Santa Run was introduced to the community with two people and one Santa Claus, before growing over the years to include six Santa’s.

“Just hearing the kids and seeing the kids, that is what it’s all about,” Muench said about why he has kept the annual tradition alive. “I really enjoy it . . . seeing all of their smiling faces. They get so excited about seeing Santa coming.”

Every year for the past four decades, individuals have dropped off wrapped presents at the main fire station, 2351 Palm Ridge Road, with a specific name, address, phone number and a brief note about the present of who the package will be delivered to that evening. For those living in condominiums, detailed instructions, or a map, is requested.

The special note offers Santa some insight on how well-behaved the little girl or boy has been throughout the year. Muench said the note can be as simple as “Johnny was good mowing the yard.” With the little tidbit of information, Santa can say you were really good about mowing the yard, as he hands young Johnny his present.

This year presents must be dropped off no later than 5 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 23, at the fire station.

Once the presents are received, they are sorted into six routes before Santa, a helper and driver depart from the fire house to deliver the special gifts. At approximately 5:30 p.m. a trio will leave the station and head to Captiva, before the remainder of the teams leave around 6 p.m. to deliver presents. The groups try to make 10 stops an hour, providing enough time for Santa to visit.

“The driver is in charge of the route, the helper is in charge of the right presents and Santa goes up to the houses. Santa gets to know the kids and the driver’s get to know the addresses,” Muench said. “We hope people will have their camera’s ready.”

In year’s past, some of the deliveries have occurred at large parties where a chair is ready for Santa once he arrives.

“He sits there and talks to all of the kids,” he said.

Last year 122 stops were made.

About 10 years ago, in honor of the holiday’s meaning, Muench said they started helping Tom Louwers and the Friends Who Care by delivering presents to children.

“This is so much fun for everybody,” he said.

Those with questions, can call Muench at (239) 472-2812.

Follow Meghan @IslanderMeghan on Twitter.