Mihalopoulos: Logan Square boy writes of more than toys in Letter to Santa

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Before presenting his wish list for this Christmas, the 6-year-old boy apparently wanted to assure his friends at the North Pole that he had been a good boy.

“Dear Santas [sic] Helper,” the boy wrote. “I am in first grade. I am always on a green card — that is good,” referring to a classroom system of colored cards regarding behavior — with green being the best.

The message from Darwin Elementary School in Logan Square is among nearly 90 “Letters to Santa” that have landed a few miles away at HMD Academy of Tae Kwon Do.

This holiday season marks the sixth year that HMD is participating in the Chicago Sun-Times Charity Trust’s program, which pairs needy children with those of us who are willing and able to make sure that the kids don’t go without gifts.

Most of the people who agree to respond to the Letters to Santa get involved through their employers or as individuals drawn in by newspaper columns such as this one.

HMD and a theater group from DePaul University are the only free-time activity groups that are fielding letters this year, according to the Charity Trust.

Flo Powdermaker, who attends classes at HMD with her three children, became acquainted with the program through the health insurance company she works for. She approached the master instructor at HMD for permission to draft volunteers from the ranks of the dojang (Korean for tae kwon do training hall) and continues to organize the distribution of letters and wrapping of gifts.


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“It doesn’t matter if you’re doing this program from a company perspective or as a church or a leisure activity,” Powdermaker says. “There’s a commonality when you’re talking about providing a gift to a child who otherwise won’t have one.”

After making wishes come true for about 30 kids in the first year, HMD’s involvement has grown dramatically. The martial-arts studio, at 1803 W. Byron St., has commitments to reply to 88 letters this year.

This is the third year the program has matched HMD with the Chicago Public Schools students at Darwin, at 3116 W. Belden Ave.

Most of the kids there and at other schools in the program list the toys they want or clothes they lack, decorating their letters with drawings of Christmas stockings or trees.

Darwin principal Mauricio Segovia says his school tries to focus on fostering an atmosphere of security, respect and tolerance among a diverse group of students. Even as Logan Square has seen a lot of gentrification, Darwin is nearly 80 percent Latino, with the rest of the student body split between blacks and whites, he says.

Thanks to the toys from HMD’s secret Santas, the students once again are looking forward to gathering by the Christmas tree near the main office of Darwin just before the holiday break. Someone dressed up as Santa Claus will pass out the gifts.

“It’s really a beautiful atmosphere,” Segovia says. “The kids are very joyful.”

The 6-year-old boy also informed Santa’s helper that his favorite food is pizza and eventually asked for a couple toys and “maybe some Hot Wheels cars.”

“I hope you have a good Christmas,” the boy concluded.

You too can make it a better holiday for a child like the boy at Darwin, by going online at www.suntimes.com/santa or by calling 312-321-3114 and asking for a Letter to Santa.

Editor’s Note: The above column has been corrected to reflect that the green card that the 6-year-old boy was referring to in his letter was in connection with his good behavior in class.

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