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Help a child in need through Sun-Times’ ‘Letters to Santa’ program

I remember two gifts I wanted for Christmas so badly as a little kid that I thought I might have the earliest heart attack on record.

I had a double shot at success, because my birthday is Dec. 24, and that was good. But there were disadvantages to that, too. Like, there would be no birthday party — ever — with a million kids coming to my house, because nobody will come to a birthday party the day before Christmas.

And then there was the possibility I and my desires — nay, my tiny existence — might be forgotten in the rush and bustle of the holiday season.

Well, I did get those two toys, on separate Christmas mornings at, I’m going to say, age six and maybe seven. (Thank you, Sweetie; thank you Jeje!) And I will never forget either.

The first was Robert the Robot, an 18-inch tall plastic block figure that you controlled with a handheld switch that made him walk forward and backward, turn right or left, and repeat in an android monotone: ‘‘I am Robert the Robot, mechanical man/Ride me and steer me wherever you can.’’

His eyes lit up with laser red beams, and I couldn’t wait to go to bed so I could sit in the dark and watch him pierce the night with those disturbing ruby eyeballs.

The second was a gray toy Howitzer cannon, again made of plastic, small and kind of cheesy, but it had an arsenal of lightweight shells that you could load into the barrel and, with the spring-loaded trigger, fire at, say, your sister from across the living room. I don’t know why I wanted that cannon so badly, but I did, and part of my deep childhood yearning was assuaged by receiving it and, yes, its inherent threat.

Of course, to sell such a “toy’’ now would be to bring the political correctness and safety people down on one like a plague of locusts: “Warmonger! You can put somebody’s eye out with that!’’

But kids today still yearn as I once did. And they still believe in hope and they want fun, cool things for Christmas.

The trouble is, a lot of those kids will be forgotten. Or lost in the holiday chaos.

Few have the comfort of middle-class life, of families solid enough financially and secure enough emotionally to hack through the jungle of thorns that make holidays simply one more reminder of the torment of poverty.

We here at the Sun-Times have our own little charity that helps these needy kids.

It’s called the “Letters to Santa’’ program, and you can help.

Indeed, if being part of a simple and wildly successful charity process makes you feel good (as it should), consider this: We have received 10,442 letters to Santa from kids in third-grade and younger from 55 different locations, and all the requests have been fulfilled except for — as I write this — 601 of them.

By my third-grade math skills, that’s about a 94 percent success rate. That’s an ‘‘A’’! So how about an ‘‘A+’’?

Let’s do it all — maybe a bit extra — and make these kids’ holiday season a little bit nicer.

Here’s what you can do — and it has to be done fast because next Wednesday is the deadline for delivery: Call us at 312-300-4193 or email us at or make a donation with a check made out to ‘‘Sun-Times Foundation’’ and send it to:

Sun-Times Foundation

Attn: Empty Stocking Fund

350 N. Orleans, 10th Floor

Chicago, IL 60654

I’ve looked at some of the letters from the kids (sorry for peeking, Santa!), and they are sweet and simple and sometimes hilarious. One little boy would like boxing gloves. Maybe he’s got an obnoxious older sister? Nope. ‘‘I want boxing gloves to help me knock out reading,’’ he writes. He concludes with a thank you and ‘‘this is for Santa and his elf.’’

Another boy writes, ‘‘I need books two (crossed out and replaced by ‘‘to’’) read. Love Santa.’’ He signs off with a drawn heart with Santa’s name in the middle.

Another boy wants ‘‘Buzz Light Year and school supplies.’’

I would have wanted Buzz Lightyear, too, back when I was a child. Though I think bringing Robert the Robot back as a cool toy now might surprise even children of the tech world.

Who knows? Who cares?

It’s the time of giving, folks, and this is cheap (no more than $25) and easy and kind. Give a needy kid something, and then you can put on your own Santa cap.

It’ll fit real nice.