By Anna Kenney
“My dad playing Santa is so cool! Not only does he make little boys and girls very happy, but I can tell how much he enjoys it,” senior Jolie Peal said. “It is so fun to see his jolly face. My dad doesn’t just play Santa; he is Santa.”
During the holiday season, Santa is very busy and is unable to visit all children to ask them what they want for Christmas. So Santa has special volunteers who come and play Santa for him. These “Santas” get to spread the holiday cheer to all children when Santa can not be there himself. How awesome would it be to know someone who was one of these “Santas?”
According to the most recent Network survey, 13 percent of students out of those who responded know or knew someone who plays or has played Santa. These Santas range from family friends, to uncles, and to a mom’s best friend’s dad. Senior Jolie Peal is lucky to have her dad who plays Santa.
One might wonder, how does one decide to be a Santa? “I was doing a ‘gray check’ on my beard when the Maple YMCA youth director spotted me. He would normally be their Santa, with a fake beard, but all of the children there knew him, so it wasn’t as much of a ‘real’ Santa experience for them,” Mr. Tim Peal said. “He enlisted my wife’s support and they ganged up on me. I loved it and have been their Santa ever since.”
Marian dad Tim Peal has been sharing the joy of the season for the past seven years as a volunteer Santa. When he isn’t playing Santa, he is father to senior Jolie Peal and works at First Data. Since 2012, Peal has been making regular Santa visits to help get children in the Christmas spirit. He makes trips to The West Maple and Twin Rivers (Valley) YMCAs, a church pre-school in Bellevue and the Methodist Women’s Hospital Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
Peal’s favorite part of playing Santa is the children and their requests. “My favorite request was from a small girl asking for ‘big girl panties’ for Christmas,” Peal said. Peal describes how some children have very simple requests and others have more complex ones. Sometimes they even request gifts for their siblings and families. “Children are more aware than we give them credit for,” said Peal. “It is sometimes difficult to respond when I get heartfelt requests to ‘bring Daddy home,’ or can a deceased family member ‘in Heaven’ be with them for Christmas.”
Peal also enjoys visiting the preemie babies and their families in the NICU, although it can be sad at times. He says that it is a special experience for him. “I know some of the babies will not be home by Christmas, and sadly, some may never go home, but I pray for each and all of them to go home healthy with their families,” Peal said. “I would also like to express my deep respect and admiration of the dedicated nurses and staff there. They do so much for the babies and their families.”
Peal would recommend playing Santa to everyone! Santa Peal knows how to spread the joy of the holiday season. He shares love and kindness with all the children and their families that he visits. Peal most certainly exemplifies the true meaning of Christmas as a volunteer Santa. “Playing Santa reminds me of how we are all one. We have the same hopes and fears, but deep down we all care for and love our families. And that all of humanity is family,” Peal said.