‘Santa’ to telephone children before Christmas

By Tanika Ely

Christmas is right around the corner and some Champaign-Urbana children will be receiving an unexpected phone call from a jolly man in a red suit.

The free phone calls are sponsored by the Champaign Park District. Male volunteers pretending to be Santa Claus will call children on Dec. 14 from 6-8 p.m. and talk with them about school, gifts and their holiday wishes.

Volunteers will talk to each of the children for about five minutes, said Kristi Bolton, special events manager at the Champaign Park District.

Bolton said she has received 40 to 50 applications from people eager to volunteer their time for the holiday event, but only a handful of holiday helpers will be needed.

“Almost all little kids will be excited to get a phone call from Santa,” Bolton said.

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Kari Hester, special events and volunteer coordinator for the Champaign Park District, said she believes the special phone call will be a pleasant experience for young children.

“It’s really the surprise factor,” she said. “A lot of the children don’t know they will be getting a call from Santa and it’s that much more special.”

For children to be included on the call list, Hester said their parents must fill out information from a brochure. Parents should include a wish list of gifts and toys the child is most likely to receive and family information the volunteers could use during the conversation.

About 40 families have signed up, Bolton said, but the park district is expecting more people to join. Parents can sign their children up for a phone call from Santa until Dec.14. Brochures are available at the park district, 301 N. Randolph St.

Bolton said Champaign Park District interns called children last year. But this year, Bolton said groups outside of the park district – including several campus fraternities – wanted to participate in the event.

“It’s really open to anyone who wants to help out,” she said.

Hester said local children and their families are not the only ones who will benefit from this experience – people volunteering their time to play the role of Santa Claus also find it rewarding.

Bolton agrees.

“They realize this is important to children,” she said. “And they will also be able to make a difference.”