Magic of the Season

ELKINS — Some of the local men who are Santa’s special helpers are thrilled to continue sharing in the magic of the season with local children and everyone who is young at heart.

Since this time of year is so busy at the North Pole, Santa’s helpers have many important holiday events to attend, where they can meet with little ones, listen to gift requests and spread good cheer to all.

One such helper is Cameron Crisp of Upshur County, who proudly assists Santa at many local events and attractions, large and small.

Crisp said seeing children meet Santa and Mrs. Claus is a beloved tradition that warms his heart.

“From the first time we all met Santa or heard his jolly old laugh, there was mysterious calling in all our hearts. Some of us sat on his lap so young we were just amazed at the beard, suit and lights. Once we were old enough to toddle we sometimes had to be bribed, handed off or coaxed into seeing the ‘old jolly fellow,'” Crisp said in a recent interview via email. “Many times looking back, this was pictures of screaming, crying or pure bliss as we waited in line to tell Santa that one thing we have wanted all year long.

“You can still see it today,” he continued. “I often stop and ponder when I am in the mall or in the presence of another professional (Santa’s helper). I like to read the expressions of the kids as they wait in anticipation in line with their cute Christmas outfits and dresses. Moms and dads (work) their magic, trying to get each one to smile and of course to remember to tell Santa what they wanted for Christmas.

“It’s very heartwarming to see lines of kiddos and adults waiting hours to see Santa. It’s a tradition and something every child and adult should experience.”

Crisp noted Santa’s helpers must be very approachable and trustworthy, especially since they help listen to children’s Christmas wishes.

“Each kid deserves your time and ear to talk to them and find out what they want for Christmas. Many times I think I was put into this position to humble myself,” he said. “Lots of kids ask for toys, gifts and electronics, which is wonderful. Many kids ask for coats, furniture and things for their parents or family. One can see that often Santa bears a big responsibility to manage these requests with smiles and sometimes tears. Sometimes (the) simplest requests are the most beautiful ones.”

Crisp said his assignment to help Santa this year will end with his annual visit to a sweet little girl in Buckhannon who had a liver transplant.

“I’m excited to see how she has grown and what she and her family would like for Christmas. Ending the year with such a visit as this reminds me of why I took on this responsibility of (representing) Santa and what is most important in this journey of life. …

“We all have some Santa in our hearts. I encourage everyone to give, seek out those in need, and to volunteer not only during the holidays but year-round. Giving to kids and adults alike does not have to come from a red-suited fellow, but yet from a simple someone that cared enough to take the time to ask, give and smile at you this Christmas! Merry Christmas to all!”

∫∫∫

Another local Santa’s helper who takes his job to spread cheer seriously is Steve Ketterman, of Elkins.

Ketterman stepped into the role of being one of Santa’s helpers three years ago, when another helper was unable to appear at a local daycare event.

“It was so much fun just watching the kids,” he said, noting how one child was enthralled with Santa’s boots, and later gave the jolly old elf a big hug and said, “I love you, Santa.”

He said many parents have been surprised or even shocked that he can get their children to sit on Santa’s lap, when the little ones have been too afraid other times. He said he’s more than happy to stay upbeat and positive in his role as one of Santa’s helpers.

“As long as it makes the kids happy, it’s worth it,” he said in a recent phone interview.

Ketterman added Santa helps lift the spirits of children and adults alike, posing for special holiday photos and asking everyone what he or she wants for Christmas this year during holiday parties, church events and family gatherings.

“A lot of time, the grownups will want to come over and take a picture,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun.”

He said he ran out of time this busy holiday season, but next year, he might take part in special horse-drawn wagon rides featuring the jolly old elf.

∫∫∫

For the past 30 years, Clif Schoonover has served as another one of Santa’s special helpers in the Randolph County area.

Schoonover had to scale back this year because of knee problems, but he said it’s been a pleasure seeing children meet Santa Claus over the past three decades.

He, too, got into the Santa’s helper business when another local man was unable to take on an appearance.

“I started out by helping a friend who was double-booked,” Schoonover said in a recent phone interview, so his friend attended a holiday party at the hospital, while Schoonover served as Santa’s helper at a local bank party.

He said it was enjoyable, and he continued serving as Santa’s helper at more and more events as time went on — particularly holiday gatherings where children were excited to meet Santa, sit on his lap and share what they wanted most for Christmas. He also became Santa’s helper for the annual Elkins Christmas Parade for about 10 years, along with his girlfriend, Brenda Dasher, who represented Mrs. Claus.

“At one point, we were probably seeing 400 kids a year,” Schoonover said, jokingly adding that it wore him out sometimes.

“It was well worth the time over the years,” he said.

One year, he recalled, a young boy and girl who came from a needy family were reluctant to tell Santa the toys they wanted for Christmas. Schoonover said he and other local Santa’s helpers joined together to make sure Santa and Mrs. Claus personally delivered their presents on Christmas Eve.

“They were happy as they could be,” he said of the children — noting that’s the most important part of being one of Santa’s helpers, simply spreading joy.