Santa Seeking Teddy Bears For Special Needs Kids
Dec. 12, 2013: Van Wert, OH - Van Wert's Santa Claus is again taking donations for the annual Teddy Bears for Santa collection. Teddy bears can be delivered to Santa's Corner at Tracy's Country Flea Market on U.S. 127 S. In turn, all donations will be delivered by Santa to special needs children within the local and outlying communities. Those wishing to submit the name of a special child to receive a teddy bear can do so at the bulletin board at Santa's Corner.
"When I was 16-years-old, I had cancer of the thyroid," said the Van Wert Santa Claus. "I woke up in Parkview Hospital on Christmas Day in 1986 and there was a Christmas teddy bear sitting across from me. I remember seeing it through the morphine drips."
It was this heart-felt experience that drove the local man to form his own cause and to help children during the holidays. Remembering his own experience, Van Wert Santa hoped to give suffering children hope and a chance to smile during Christmas by presenting them with their very own teddy bear.
"There are so many children fighting disabilities in our area," said the local gift-giver. "We are trying to get as many people as we can to help with this cause so that we have enough supplies to take care of all of these children. If we receive an overabundance of donations, it is viewed as a blessing and we store them away to be used later down the road."
After beginning his cause, Van Wert Santa Claus began receiving teddy bears from those wishing to help others during the holidays, and these fluffy friends were delivered to hospitals and individual homes and those able to withstand the cold weather came to directly to Santa to receive their donated gift.
His small push for good eventually became Teddy Bears for Santa, and over the past few years 10-15 teddy bears have been collected each Christmas to benefit the community's children.
"This year we are pushing for 50 teddy bears," said the jolly man. "I don't have a problem with people telling me that their child is in the hospital, whether it be Dayton, Toledo, or Columbus because I will travel anywhere with no charge to go see these children. I feel that once people realize I am willing to do this for free there will be more people contacting me to go see their children."
Van Wert Santa Claus already has plans to visit 15 different special needs children and will still be delivering these special gifts on Christmas Day. Donations should be delivered by the weekend before Christmas on Dec. 22, but Santa noted that anything donated after this date will still be used.
New teddy bears are preferable as many hospitals will not allow used items, but used items will be accepted. Used items are taken to One-Hour Cleaners of Van Wert where they are cleaned for free. Those wishing to give used items can also drop the stuffed animals off at One-Hour Cleaners to be taken care of ahead of time, and Santa will visit this location to collect the used teddy bears.
Santa has visited many special children over the year, but he is especially excited to visit one particular child this year. The boy has a cyst on his spine and undergoes ongoing surgeries to manage the growing parasite. Santa is planning a very special visit for this very special child this Christmas.
"This kid has the most infectious smile, and smiles through everything," said Van Wert Santa. "When you see a kid like that, it is like wow, because everyone else is moping around about simple things. He is in pain but still smiling."
This local Santa makes a variety of visits throughout the Van Wert community during the holiday season. He will be at Tracy's Country Flea Market every Wednesday and Thursday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. to visit and take free photos with the children. On Saturday, Dec. 14, Santa will also be visiting Hat Creek Arena for the weekly rodeo event.
"It is fun to see how kids react around me," smiled Santa. "One time, a little two-year-old girl didn't want to come near me. I went up to talk to her in line, gave her a candy cane, and took a picture with her. As she left, she ran back to give me a hug. To know that I can change the perspective of a little child to not be afraid of Santa is one of the things that I really enjoy. That is more friends I have down the road."
Story by Lindsay McCoy, Times Bulletin