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All I want for Christmas is for you to request one of our Letters to Santa, and maybe some Hot Wheels

The letters remind me of studying toy catalogues when I was young to perfect my own Christmas wish list. Here’s how you can help kids in the Chicago area have a happy holiday.

Students at Octavio Paz elementary opening their gifts from a previous year’s Chicago Sun-Times’ Letters to Santa program.
Students at Octavio Paz elementary opening their gifts from a previous year’s Chicago Sun-Times’ Letters to Santa program.
Mark Brown / Sun-Times

One of the best parts of participating in the Chicago Sun-Times’ “Letters to Santa” program for an old guy like me is that it’s an excuse to buy toys.

With my own kids grown and gone and no grandchildren in the picture just yet, I wouldn’t even know about edible slime and PJ Masks, let alone have a reason to buy them, if not for the Letters to Santa kids.

Their letters remind me of hours spent as a child studying toy catalogues to perfect my own Christmas wish list — and the joy that followed when wishes came true.

But the absolutely best part of Letters to Santa is having the opportunity to provide some measure of that same joy to another child.

It’s that time again when we at the Sun-Times put the arm on you to help make the holiday season shine brighter for thousands of children.

Let me thank you in advance because I know you will make this year’s program another success, as you have all the years I have had the honor of asking you to play your part in Letters to Santa.

All you have to do is go online to suntimes.com/santa and ask us for one or more of the children’s letters. Then, buy a present, wrap it, and deliver it to the school by the date requested. If that sounds like too much work, we also welcome cash donations.

You might think making this request would be an onerous task for a grouchy, old newspaper columnist more accustomed to writing about corrupt politicians.

I swear this is my favorite column of the year. That’s because I know the good that this program does.

I’ve seen the happy faces and heard the squeals of delight from the kids when the presents are passed out.

And I’ve spoken to school officials who know for a fact that your generosity will make a real difference in the lives of their students, some of whose families won’t be able to afford to buy Christmas gifts this year.

And such promising lives they are.

I’ve just finished reading through a stack of letters from third graders at Arthur A. Libby Elementary and Middle School, 5300 S. Loomis St., where teachers asked the students to include in their wish lists an explanation of what they’ve been doing to earn Santa’s goodwill.

Kamari Mariano, 9, reports that she always helps her baby sister “when she has her seizures.”

Jenice Alfaro, 8, asked for a book because she helps her mom babysit her little cousin, and “I like to read to them.”

Anthony Ross Jr., 8, saw the wisdom of itemizing each of his requests with a corresponding good deed.

“This Christmas I would like a new Spiderman backpack because I take the trash out every day,” Anthony wrote. “I also would like a basketball because I help my sister with homework in 1st grade. Lastly, I would like a soccer ball because I get good grades in 2nd grade.”

You get the feeling Anthony could have come up with even more reasons to show how deserving he is, but we limit the kids to three wishes and ask you to buy them just one present. Something in the $25-$30 range is good.

My wife saved some of the toy catalogues that arrived this year to help us prepare for this year’s letters. I’ve been studying up. For their sake, of course, not mine.

I sure hope one of those kids wants a Hot Wheels Smart Track Kit.

Letters to Santa is an annual program brought to you by the Sun-Times Charity Trust. Each year, we match over 10,000 Chicago area students with volunteer elves who purchase gifts and help make children’s holiday wishes come true. Learn more, and sign up to be an elf at suntimes.com/santa