With the holiday season here again, we of course expect children to clamor for the latest toys.
As they write letters to Santa, it’s no surprise when they ask for a fancy new doll, action figure, video game or a bike. Sometimes all four, just to up the odds that at least one will show up under the tree.
But what tugs at our heart is when a child also asks for something basic, something so many of us take for granted.
Like winter wear — a coat, a hat, some gloves or a hoodie.
The children at Fairfield Academy in Chicago Lawn want toys, of course. Like any child, they are asking Santa this year for Legos and Hatchimals and other playthings.
But they’re also asking for items every Chicagoan needs with another winter fast approaching — actually, already here, judging by recent temperatures.
Read some of what they wrote to the Sun-Times’ Letters to Santa program:
Angel: “I have been good this year. I even help my mom mop the floor and wash the dishes. I would like a Lego set and a new coat for winter or a new pair of gloves to keep my hands warm when I walk to school.”
Natty: “For Christmas I would like a coat. I would also like a shirt and pant set. Last I would like a Pomsies. I can’t wait to see you, say hi to the elves for me please.”
Christiana: “Merry early Christmas Santa. The only thing that I want for Christmas is a LOL Surprise doll whatever kind. And can you bring me a winter coat? Please tell your reindeer I will leave him a snack.”
Julio: “I hope that you bring me 1 WWE big show toys and can you bring me a pajama set and bring me a coat for winter. I will have cookies and milk for you.”
At Fairfield, 98 percent of the children are from low-income families. So last year, when the school participated in Letters to Santa for the first time, the children didn’t comprehend that they could ask for something — and actually get it.
“That’s just an expectation for kids who are not living in extreme poverty,” Principal Claudia Lopez told us. “For our kids, it stands out to us how foreign that [idea] is to them.”
Lopez told us a story that illustrates the challenges her students face.
One of last year’s kindergarten participants told her teacher that she wanted socks, prompting the puzzled teacher to ask, “What do you mean?” The little girl pointed to her feet — bare and with a few cuts, stuck in ill-fitting, worn-out shoes — and told the teacher, “I don’t have any socks.”
“We made sure she asked for that, but also for a toy,” Lopez said.
Letters to Santa was a great success at Fairfield last year, when kindergarten and first-graders participated. “The kids were in total disbelief when the gifts came in. That generosity wasn’t an experience our children had ever had,” Lopez said. “It’s heartwarming to have them write the letter, and right before we send them off for the holidays, they get a wrapped gift they can open on Christmas.”
This year, children in preschool through third grade wrote letters to Santa. We’re pulling for every one of them to become a believer when they see their gift come in.
There’s nothing more heartwarming than to help a child in need. Letters to Santa is working this year with dozens of schools and hopes to provide gifts to over 12,000 children.
You can help give these kids the merriest of Christmases. Here’s how to help: