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Sun Gazette: Legislators Fill in for Santa to Brighten Lives of Local Students Print


Created:  Monday, December 24, 2012


Santa can't be everywhere during the holiday season, so the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing called on two members of the General Assembly to fill in for jolly St. Nick at several of its apartment complexes in the run-up to Christmas.

"Sometimes you just lose yourself and get totally wrapped up in the moment," said Del. Patrick Hope (D-47th), a veteran Kris Kringle who on Dec. 13 visited with youngsters at Marbella Apartments.

Hope goes a step beyond simply donning the suit and showing off his jolly self: He supports a charitable effort called "Hope for Kids" that collects and distributes toys to children from low-income households.

"We really try to make it a special occasion, knowing that for some, it may be one of only a few toys they receive," said Hope, who has a custom Santa suit (with appropriate padding) for his appearances.

On Dec. 20, the youngsters of Buchanan Gardens Apartments got the chance to interact with a newcomer to the Santa world: Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-49th). This Santa worked the room like a pro, although he made a couple of rookie mistakes, like initially forgetting to give each child a candy cane after visiting.

But Santa Alfonso was attentive to the wishes of his young new friends: Seven-year-old Jason was hoping for a bike, while neighbor Francisco was eager to get a skateboard.

What's hot for the holidays? Liz McElwee, who helped coordinate the Buchanan Gardens event, said it runs the gamut, from Beyblades to Barbie.

At the Buchanan Gardens celebration, Santa was slightly delayed – even his sleigh has to stop for traffic construction on Columbia Pike. In the meantime, McElwee led the youngsters in a singalong to a CD of Dean Martin crooning "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" as they enjoyed a pizza party.

Hope said the key to being a good Santa is having a listening ear and staying focused.

"I always remember to engage each child and make the moment memorable for them," he said. "I ask them about school, their favorite subject, and encourage them to study hard and do well. And the most important question of all – 'what do you want for Christmas?' – you can't forget that one!"