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Being Santa | Community Spirit

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Being Santa

Disclaimer: To preserve the Christmas magic, we recommend small children do not watch this story.

Ask 7-year-old Trey Hernandez what he wants for Christmas this year and he’ll say a skateboard. Neveah Stanford, age 6, wants an American Girl doll. Seven-year-old Blare Woods and his sister Tessah, 4, want jet packs. But these children are going above their parents, to the ultimate Christmas wish-giver: Santa.

“Santa” Glenn Unzicker, from Sun Prairie, Wis., has been playing the role since 2001. He was initially approached during his family vacation by a hotel employee asking if he would be willing to play Santa. Unzicker initially declined, but later changed his mind.

In 2003, Unzicker graduated from the Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School in Midland, Mich. There he learned how to care for his hair and beard, how to sit a child on Santa’s knee, and how to talk with older and younger children, as well as those with special needs.

Sometimes getting the child into Santa’s lap can be troublesome, but Unzicker said he lets a child come to Santa at their own pace.

“Parents don’t think about the fact that most of their lives, before they ever met Santa, what do you tell a child? Don’t go to strangers,” he said.  “Now you’re telling them it’s OK? It’s a conflict in their minds.”

But even once a child is safely in Santa’s lap, their Christmas wish can’t always be granted. Whether a family has been hit hard by economic times, or a child’s request is just unreasonable (like the little girl who asked Unzicker for a real lion), sometimes Santa’s magic just isn’t enough.

“I don’t promise anything because you don’t know the situation,” Unzicker said. “You just can’t go out there and say, ‘Oh yeah, you can have that $300 item, no problem!’  Yeah, how are they going to pay for it?”

In his “real” life, Unzicker has held a number of jobs from mowing greens at the golf course to gas station convenience work. Now, he works as a school bus driver. Students often request Unzicker, whose positive attitude and unique rap songs make mundane bus trips exciting. One rap he’s especially proud of, Santa’s Christmas Message, has garnered over 1,600 views on YouTube.

This Christmas, Unzicker will visit a family with two boys, ages 11 and 5, who have been battling cancer. Afterward, he will deliver a ring to a man who plans to propose to his girlfriend on Christmas Day.

Unzicker sees sorrow and he sees joy, but hopes his jolly demeanor and encouragement brighten Christmas for everyone he encounters this holiday season.

It’s all in a day of being Santa.

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