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Lee Morris, Published December 21 2008

Santa hears requests for food, toys for other kids, pain relief

Santa sometimes hears what he does not expect.

Two years ago, a girl came to Santa at Rheault Farm’s Santa Village and asked for a VCR. She said her brother broke it by roughhousing. Mom always watches TV.

But the girl who wore a dirty sky-blue jacket changed her mind.

“Can you just bring us some food?” she asked. “We haven’t had food at our house in about three days.”

Each year, the red-suited man hears requests that go beyond toys. Children turn to Santa because he’s the only person in the world who they feel can help. And he does what he does with every other child. He listens.

Shed a tear

Santa empathizes with kids who would rather keep warm and receive new winter coats or mittens than a Nintendo Wii.

Other children ask for toys, but sparingly: “Those are the kids that don’t have a silver spoon in their mouth,” Santa says. “All they want is just a matchbox car.”

At Santaville in Fargo’s West Acres mall, some kids have asked for their moms and dads to come home.

“When our troops were in Iraq,” Santa says, “there were a lot of kids who just wanted their daddy home.”

At Rheault Farm, Santa’s ear sporadically catches a wish for altruism.

“There were a couple this past weekend, and they just thought and thought and thought,” Santa says, “and they said, ‘You know, there’s nothing we really need, and we would just like the kids who don’t have things, that they really get covered.’

“I could really shed a tear when a kid says something like that.”

Eavesdropping elves

Some people in Fargo-Moorhead aid Santa during the holidays. They have overheard the holiday hopes of children.

Carolyn Boutain has worked for 20 years at Santa Village, in south Fargo’s Rheault Farm. She jokes she could be called “head elf.”

“They all want toys,” says Boutain, of the Fargo Park District. “The real touching ones are the kids with missing families; or those who have been touched by divorce.”

Randy Long helps West Acres run Santaville. He recalls what he heard about five years ago.

“ ‘I want my grandpa to have a day without pain,’ ” Long recalls a boy saying to Santa. Grandpa was dying of cancer.

“For a kid to give up an Xbox for that? That’s Christmas. In today’s ‘gimme’ society, it gives you hope.”

Another year

In hardscrabble times for some kids, their requests do not necessarily follow the economy. Kids with unexpected wish lists see Santa every year.

“We haven’t heard too many horror stories; they want the normal things this year,” Long says.

For kids, Santa’s magic is plain on their faces. Believing comes second nature.

“No matter how bad the times are, when the kids come up, when the adults come up, when the aged come up, they all look at Santa with brand-new eyes, filled with possibility,” Long says.

For the kids with less tangible hopes, Santa does not fan hard-to-come-by desires. He makes no promises.

“I’ll see what I can do,” says Santa to a hopeful child. “I’ll do my best.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Lee Morris at (701) 241-5523