Pretty Please, Santa
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Pretty Please, Santa

Photo by Squeakyrat from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.
Santa Claus may have already stopped by Toronto for the parade, but a group of dedicated elves with a local non-profit are working hard to make sure the city’s underprivileged kids don’t miss out on the man-in-the-red-suit’s visit Christmas Eve. Santa in the City has collected letters from less fortunate kids across the GTA and posted them online so that good-hearted Torontonians can help fulfill each child’s wishes. The concept is simple: adopt a letter by December 15, set out for the stores, and drop off the unwrapped gifts at Santa’s Toy Shoppe.
Santa in the City—an initiative run entirely by volunteers—is the brainchild of Jacqueline LaRonde, who brought the idea to Toronto after seeing a similar project in New York City. After its trial run helped thirty kids in 2006, Santa in the City expanded to answer one hundred and sixty letters in 2007. This year’s goal is to make Christmas morning a little brighter for three hundred kids.
What sets Santa in the City apart from other toy donation schemes is that it’s based on the principle of what LaRonde calls “experience-driven giving.” Kids who might’ve been told time and again that they can’t have this or that gift because it’s too expensive are encouraged to dream and ask for anything and everything they’ve wanted. Torontonians, in turn, can target their holiday donations to ensure every letter-writer experiences the Christmas morning excitement that not only did Santa find them this year—even if they’re living in a shelter—but that he remembered exactly what they wanted. Submitted by kids of all age groups from newborns to teenagers, the letters to Santa range in tone from adorable to heart-wrenching. And nothing sums up the reasons why it’s better to give than to receive than a handful of the letters themselves.

Photo by –richelle– from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.
Some letter-writers, like this five-year-old, humbly request a single, simple gift:

Dear Santa, I would like a scooter for Christmas. Thank You Santa Claus. I wish you a Merry Christmas

Others make more personal requests:

Dear Santa, I’ve behaved good this year. I did a lot of work at school and I helped a lot. For Christmas I want a remote control helicopter to fly around my house. I also really want to go horseback riding – I have never been before – and riding lessons. Horses are my favourite animal. Thank you so much!

Despite having Santa’s rapt attention, some of the kids still use the opportunity to think only of the rest of their family:

Dear Santa, How is it going in the north pole. I hope everything is well. Me and my 2 siblings don’t want much for christmas. but our mom does. My mom works very hard. She is always talking about getting a Nintendo Wii so she can work out. She is always saying how she wants to got to the gym but she never has time, SO we are asking if you could please get her the Wii and some games for Christmas. But hey I can play Wii with my mommy to and my two brothers and sisters, I cant waite for christmas Santa. Seasns Greetinhd Quinton

Kids who’ve done all their homework, helped out their parents, or volunteered with after-school programs—as many letter-writers gleefully point out—certainly all deserve a place on Santa’s Good List. Some, like this six-year-old girl, even extend their offers of generosity to St. Nick himself:

Dear Santa, I have completed all my home work and gone to school every day. Some things I want for Christmas are a leap frog and a vtech lap top and hair stuff and art stuff. Santa I wish I can come to your home and help you wrap all those gifts. Do you get tired?

By partnering with a wide assortment of social agencies across the GTA, such as shelters and food banks, Santa in the City helps not only kids who are underprivileged financially, but also assists new immigrant children and those with special needs, like this ten-year-old boy with a wheelchair:

Dear Santa, How are you? What I want for Christmas is 1) a special needs bike, 2) a BaKugan Brawlers Set and 3) a pack of Chaotic Cards. Thank you very much and Merry Christmas and I hope I will get my wishes some time. Love Carlos

Some letter-writers, like one dedicated Hannah Montana fan seeking a personal visit from her idol, have requests that even Santa himself couldn’t fulfill. And other letters might require fluency in kidspeak to decipher that “Obelisk the Tormenter” is a Yu-Gi-Oh! card or that “Biscuit the doggy” is one of the Fur Real Friends. Many of the kids want the same video game consoles and mp3 players as everyone else their age. But the wide range of Christmas wishes mean there’s a letter suitable for just about any individual or family to adopt. As the Santa in the City website points out, however, people who adopt a letter can “fulfill as much or as little of the letter as you’d like.” Financial donations are also welcome—tax receipts can be issued—and will ensure as many letters as possible will be fulfilled this Christmas.