Santa’s helpers aim ‘to make sure kids have a really good Christmas’

SHARE Santa’s helpers aim ‘to make sure kids have a really good Christmas’

Nielsen is a global firm studying consumer behavior, from what we watch on television to what we buy.

When it comes to figuring out Christmas presents for kids who need a helping hand, the employees in Nielsen’s Schaumburg office have the best data available — heartfelt letters they wrote to Santa.

This year, 144 students at the G.D. Kanoon Magnet School, 2233 S. Kedzie Ave., and Nielsen are among those participating in the Chicago Sun-Times Charity Trust’s Season of Sharing Letters to Santa program for needy Chicago children.

“Our goal is to try to fulfill what’s on these kids’ list,” said Mark Cruth, Nielsen’s program manager, who is part of Santa’s Schaumburg team.

Last year, Nielsen employees loaded four SUVs with gifts and headed to Kanoon, also bringing along their own Santa. They distributed gifts to about 140 kids in six classrooms, with Santa reading the names of the children as they got their gift.

“And then after the gifts are distributed, the kids open them up right there,” Cruth said. “And you can see their faces. They come over and give Santa a hug. . . . It pulls at your heartstrings.”

The focus is on assisting pre-K and kindergarten students. The letters they wrote are distributed to Nielsen employees in the Schaumburg office, who then make the holiday purchases. In the coming weeks, the Nielsen folks will get together at work to wrap the gifts and write a personal letter from Santa to each child.

For the kids, they know they wrote to Santa “and what they believe is they are getting their present from Santa, and that’s the magic we want to make sure is still there,” Cruth said.

While a few kids are asking for Lego Star Wars sets and Barbie dolls, Cruth said the main requests they get are for essentials.

“They’ll be asking for a jacket,” he said. “Same with boots. And socks. That’s what will pull on you.

“These kids have an opportunity to write a letter to Santa, and that’s what they are asking you for. It’s very emotional as we go through it.”

Nielsen’s generous Schaumburg team buys the toys and the basics.

“We try to fulfill both,” Cruth said. “We try to get them those boots to keep their feet warm and dry and also — they are kids, and they love toys, so let’s give them that toy, too.”

The Sun-Times’ Letters to Santa program hopes to assist 10,000 children this year. The newspaper contacts schools in low-income neighborhoods, social service agencies, homeless shelters and Head Start programs to find kids who could use your help.

To find out more about how you can make this a wonderful holiday season for a child in need, check out the details at or call us at 312-321-3114 to request one or multiple letters.

We’ll also send a letter from the school or nonprofit agency telling you something about the child’s situation and where and when to send the package. Gifts should be in the $25-$30 range. And if you can’t find exactly what they requested, something similar is fine.

Said Nielsen’s Cruth: “Everyone is going above and beyond to make sure the kids have a really good Christmas.”

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