Follow @MarkBrownCSTIt was as if Santa came early last week to Monroe School in Logan Square, where Betsy Alvarez’s third-graders were still buzzing the morning after the impromptu holiday prompted by the Cubs’ championship clincher.
“No one cares if you stay up late if you’re watching a Cubs’ game,” explained one 8-year-old girl as her classmates marveled over the late-night celebration.
For his next regularly scheduled visit to Monroe School, Santa will no doubt require a return to normal bedtimes — as well as a little help from some of you.
Don’t let the Cubs’ long postseason run and the mild temperatures fool you. It’s time again for the Chicago Sun-Times’ Letters to Santa program.
This is when we ask our readers to take on the role of Santa’s helpers and help fulfill the holiday wishes of thousands of needy children in the Chicago area.
The students at Monroe School know it’s time because they’ve already written their letters to explain what good girls and boys they have been this year.
And a fine bunch of letters they were, which is what drew me to this school of 900 students grades pre-K through eighth at 3651 W. Schubert.
Some kids write their letters to Santa and go directly to the Big Ask, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Follow @MarkBrownCSTBut Ms. Alvarez requires her students to make their case, which I prefer, because, let’s face it, it’s never too early to start taking a personal inventory and building that resume.
Consider this letter from Aaron Llamas: “Dear Santa’s Helper, I’ve been good taking care of my mom because her knees hurt her. When my mom was choking, I got her water right away! I gave her stuff that she needs to make food.”
Aaron’s subsequent request for Pokemon cards, Legos or a vest came across almost as an afterthought.
Eric Ramos was even more industrious.
“Dear Santa’s Helper,” he wrote. “I was helping out my mom and my dad. I helped my sister out. I helped her walk and run. I did chores and cleaned my room. I did the dishes. I washed the windows, and I let my dog outside.”
I can’t remember my boys ever washing any windows.
During my visit to Ms. Alvarez’s class, I heard from a girl who helps her grandmother sew clothes, another who feeds and puts her baby sisters to bed and several who help with the laundry.
Surely, Santa will smile on them all this year.
Just to be sure, though, we need Sun-Times readers to participate in Letters to Santa.
To get started, either go on our website at suntimes.com/santa or email us at email@example.com or call 312-321-3114.
The idea is simple: You request one or more of the Letters to Santa that have been collected from schools and social service agencies serving low-income families around the city.
Then, we ask you to buy one of the gifts the child requested. It’s best to spend no more than $25 to $30 per child so nobody feels slighted.
It’s also your responsibility to wrap and deliver the gift to the school by the deadline set out in more detailed instructions we will send you along with the child’s letter.
I generally regard it as my most well-spent time and money of the holidays.
For those who just want to send us the money and leave the work to others, we’re good with that, too.
Every year after meeting these kids and seeing their smiling faces, I find it hard to believe this program may produce their only present of the season.
“That’s absolutely true,” Monroe School Principal Ricardo Trujillo assured me. “If it wasn’t for this, we have kids who get nothing.”
In a year of big dreams coming true, don’t forget the little ones.