As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to limit social gatherings of any kind, 100 miracle Santas around the world are “saving Christmas” by offering customized, virtual visits for kids.
As one of those participating Santas, Yuba City resident Walt Kaiser said he is honored to be selected to bring smiles to people's faces during challenging times.
“It’s just so nice to be able to put a smile on someone's face, and it doesn’t matter if they are two or 90” said Kaiser.
Santa Walt, as he’s known, said he has been dressing up as Santa since 2004 after a little boy mistook him for Kris Kringle during a chance encounter at a Tucson restaurant.
“I had 15 children in my lap that night,” said Kaiser. “They say you don’t choose to become Santa, becoming Santa chooses you and just like the movie, ‘The Santa Claus,’ I found my suit that night.”
Since then, Kaiser has traveled across the U.S., Canada and Mexico portraying Santa Claus.
“I am really Santa 24/7 365 days a year,” said Kaiser. “I carry around a little coin purse full of coins that say ‘I was caught being good’ to give out to kids all year round.”
Kaiser said he has already done one virtual visit this year from his garage, which he has converted into Santa’s living room for the Zoom seasons.
“I’ve got the mug for cocoa and the naughty and nice list, the whole set up,” said Kaiser.
Kaiser said there are Santas around the world participating in the program – some as far away as Australia, Germany, England and Ireland – and all can be reviewed and selected based on availability.
To book a virtual visit, visit https://www.howtosavechristmas.com and click on “Zoom with Santa Claus.”
As part of the registration process, participants must fill out a questionnaire with a series of questions about the children who will be present for the session so Santa can make it as specific to each child as possible.
“It's a myriad of all things Santa would want to know,” said Kaiser. “Things like the child’s name and age, what they got for Christmas last year. That way we can ask them if they still play with that toy and so on.”
There are three virtual visit options, said Kaiser. The basic package includes a 15-minute program where attendees can interact with Santa and ask questions. The Premium Package includes the 15-minute session as well as an engraved bell that will be sent in the mail.
“The bells are just like the ones used for the Polar Express,” said Kaiser.
Group packages are also available as well, but Kaiser said they will not be as customized due to time constraints and multiple participants.
Package pricing ranges from $97-194 per session.
“The really good part is that we have partnered with Make A Wish,” said Kaiser. “They are sponsoring 500 calls for children in the hospital.”
Each child participating in the hospital sessions will also receive a digital keepsake photo of themselves with Santa to keep up with tradition despite being unable to meet in person.
Kaiser said the “100 Miracle Santas Saving Christmas,” program will run through Jan. 15.
In addition to participating in the virtual visits, Kaiser said he has been busy for weeks doing home visits, photo shoots and corporate engagements as Santa.
Kaiser said if anyone in the Yuba-Sutter area knows of a child that will be in the hospital or is dealing with a situation that will prevent them from being home on Christmas, he is available to set up a special meeting.