by Mike Scopa
AllEars® Feature Writer

Feature Article

This article appeared in the December 21, 2010 Issue #587 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)

Mike ScopaThe polls have recently closed, the counting of the ballots has begun and AllEars® is projecting that the year 2010 will go down as the fastest year in history... by a landslide.

Where did the time go? Seconds turned into minutes, which turned into hours. Days quickly turned to weeks and weeks to months, and here we are again, looking down the throat of another holiday season.

As with all holiday seasons it gives us time to reflect on not just this past year but also all the years of our lives. These years serve as chapters in our lives. Chapters that when strung together make for a book... a book about us.

When I think about Christmas I think about some memorable things I'd like to share with you. It all starts with coming clean with my children, who after some 30 years will finally hear something from me that I thought I would never reveal.

I was Santa Claus. Yes, I was.

A long time ago I purchased a Santa Claus suit, one of the best you could buy. Very detailed, crushed velvet. And I bought a Santa Claus beard, wig, and pair of spectacles from the Boston Theatrical Company. I wanted to play Santa Claus for the 35 houses in our neighborhood and for my children.

I was the chairperson for the Employee Activities Committee for the company I worked for at that time. We came up with some ideas to add value not only to the employees' holiday season, but also to our families' and to those less fortunate than us. One year we decided to do something special, so we contacted a local orphanage and arranged to have the children brought to our building to enjoy a Christmas party. Though we arranged this Christmas party for many years, it is this first year we did it that will always have a special place in my heart.

A few weeks before this party we put up a few Christmas trees in the cafeteria, and on these trees were special cards. Written on each card was the name of a child from the orphanage and a Christmas wish -- that is, what the child was asking Santa to bring for Christmas. The cards went fast. My co-workers were always generous and their generosity and spirit of giving was never higher than during the holiday season.

On that special Friday evening in December the children were bused to our company and we brought them into our festive cafeteria. The memory that I hold very dear happened that night. It was all about believing in Santa Claus.

Of course, I was Santa that evening and Santa and his elves had cake and ice cream and all kinds of treats for the children, but before they enjoyed those goodies the children had to first visit Santa and tell him what they wanted for Christmas. As each child came up to me and told me their wish, I handed them a candy cane and then one of my elves would give them a present. All the children were very excited to come to this party. Well, almost all the children were.

On this particular evening there was one 14-year-old boy who just didn't want to be there. His name was Jeff. It is hard to imagine how anyone could abandon a child, but it is not hard to imagine that the child would grow up wondering why life had dealt him such a hand. Jeff was the oldest boy at the orphanage, and had dealt with his hand for a long time. It was obvious he did not want to be at this party. Santa was a long-lost memory for Jeff.

I knew what Jeff wanted for Christmas -- a bike. Even though Jeff had not filled out a card for our tree, one of the caretakers at the orphanage with whom Jeff had gotten close knew what the teen wanted. He or she had filled out the card and had written "bike" on it.

As the children made their way to me I could see Jeff in line, looking like he was on his way to a root canal. When he finally got to the front of the line, he was a trooper. He knew that the younger children were excited so he played along, but it was clear his heart wasn't in it. When he came up to me, I called him by name and one of his eyebrows reached for the ceiling. He tilted his head and gave me a puzzled look. I asked him how everything was going and he slowly said, "OK." He wanted to get out of there as soon as possible.

As I was talking to Jeff he did not notice there was a wall of my fellow employees forming behind him. Are you catching on?

"So Jeffrey!" I said, "I try real hard to make everyone's Christmas wish come true, and it takes a lot of work. Sometimes I try so hard my head hurts, and I sometimes forget what's on my list. What was at the top of your Christmas list this year?"

Jeffrey was in agony, but he took a deep breath, thought about the cake and ice cream awaiting him and said in a low tone, "Nothing really."

I began to feel for this boy so much that I went into action real fast.

"Wait Jeffrey, I do remember! I remember what you wanted."

Jeffrey lifted his head, tilted it to one side and again looked at me as if I had reindeer antlers growing out of my Santa hat. I had his attention.

"And I think... I think... HO HO HO! I think there is a surprise for you if you would just turn around."

Jeffrey spun around and saw the bike. The employees had slipped it behind him while I was talking with him. Did I forget to mention to you that we had gotten this teen his Christmas wish?

Jeffrey ran to the bike and just before he got to it he spun back around and raced towards me, sporting a big smile, gave me a hug and said, "Thank you, Santa!" He then ran back to the bike.

As Santa I had to maintain my composure. But Mrs. Santa to my right, my elves, and all the employees were fumbling for tissues, as I am right now, recalling that night. It was a moment that none of us would ever forget, especially Jeff. I just know that somewhere he is enjoying this Christmas season and doing whatever he can to nurture his children's belief in Santa Claus.

So this is what this AllEars® holiday newsletter is all about. Belief. We all need to believe in something, to get us through the day... to get us through life.

That same year I made a number of house calls as Santa. When I made these house calls and had several children with whom to visit, I brought candy canes, jingle bells, and "The Polar Express," a wonderful book that I loved to read to the children. After reading the book I would ask the children to give me their Christmas wishes and ask them if I could give them mine. This was always met with smiles and sometimes excitement. Wow, Santa wants to tell me HIS Christmas Wish?

So I would tell the children that lately I'd been having difficulty making my one-night trip around the world and delivering gifts to everyone.

"Why Santa?" I was asked.

I would tell them that lately people had not been nice to each other and that affected my power. I also told them that what most children don't know is that when they believe in me, I receive energy from them and this energy gives me power to do my job. However, when someone stops believing in me, that's when I feel a little weak and find it hard to do my job. So I asked them if they could help me. Of course by now they were on the edge of their seats, because they had an opportunity to help Santa.

"Yes, Santa!" was the unanimous cry.

I smiled and reached for my sack. I pulled out a jingle bell about the size of a golf ball with a red ribbon on it.

"I had the elves make these bells from the runners from my old sleighs. There seems to be magic in them. I have one for each of you. Before you go to sleep on Christmas Eve I would like you to shake your bell three times and say, 'I believe in you Santa!' If you will do that for me, I will be able to deliver all the presents on Christmas Eve. I need your help!"

Every time -- every single time I did that when visiting a house -- the children would jump to their feet and shake their heads and hold out their hands for the bells. I placed a bell in each child's hand and thanked them individually, making sure I used their names and looked deeply into their eyes. Of course the parents ate this up and even today when I run across these parents they will stop and say, "My children may have grown up, but they continue to believe in the magic of Santa Claus."

It's all about believing.

All of us here at AllEars® enjoy what we do. It's a labor of love. Make no mistake about it -- it IS work, but we enjoy it. We enjoy bringing to you as much information as we can and in the best manner possible. We believe in our brand and follow the lead of a very special lady, Deb Wills, who challenges us to incorporate integrity and quality into everything we do.

Along the line as we do reviews, blogs, photo reports, and lately a live call-in show, we find we get our energy from you... just as Santa gets his energy from the children around the world who believe in him. That's what keeps him going. Your belief in AllEars® and what that brand stands for is what motivates all of us at AllEars®.

You are the power source that helps us find the energy to collect those details about an upcoming event, to do reviews on new restaurants as soon as they open up, to write blogs that help you find Hidden Mickeys, to show you how to take great photos, or perhaps even how to go about training to run a half or full marathon. Your visits to AllEars®, your emails to us, your subscriptions to the newsletter, are very much giving us the same thing as what I asked those children to do for Santa and what I hope I instilled in Jeffrey with that bicycle. Belief.

So in this holiday season all of us here are AllEars® want to express our sincere thanks to you for believing in us for 15 years. We hope that you continue to believe in us for years to come as we try to serve you and the Disney internet community as best we can. We wish you the warmest, safest, most joyous holiday season and hope that the New Year brings with it health and prosperity to you and your family.

Oh, and before I forget -- to my daughter Holly, and son Mike, Jr. -- if you two did not catch the confession early on, yes, that was me in the Santa suit all those years.

Happy Holidays!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mike Scopa has been a huge Disney fan for as long as he can remember. He first visited Walt Disney World in 1975 and has returned many times (how many? he's lost count!) since. Mike is a contributor to the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World and Cara Goldsbury's Luxury Guide to Walt Disney World, and has served as keynote speaker for MagicMeets. He is also co-host of the WDWTODAY Podcast and writes an occasional blog, The View from Scopa Towers, for AllEars.Net:

In addition, Mike is co-captain of Team AllEars® -- the AllEars.Net Running Team that will participate in the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend in 2011.


Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.