On a windy Monday morning, Santa’s jolly baritone could be heard echoing across the Perkins School for the Blind campus. The man in the red suit was making his way to Brooks Cottage, home to students in Perkins’ Secondary Program, where a festive holiday party was underway.
“I hope everyone’s been good!” he called out, taking a seat beside a Christmas tree festooned with lights. “Do you think we could sing a song?”
The room broke into a lively rendition of “Jingle Bells,” with students pounding out the beat on the backs of sofas and chairs.
“Santa, you’ve come to the best cottage ever,” proclaimed Brian, as he ripped open the wrapping paper on his gift – a talking coin bank. If Brian was too old to believe in Santa Claus, he was too polite to let on.
Soon, Mr. Claus was on the move, aided by Mrs. Claus, of course. His next stop was the Early Learning Center, where youngsters ages 3-6 were lined up with their parents and siblings waiting for a chance to meet with Santa and snap a coveted holiday photo.
“The parents are just as excited about Santa’s visit,” said Raven Register, a social worker in the Early Learning Center. “For our kids it can be difficult to go and stand in line at the mall. Everyone wants a picture of their kids with Santa – and this is a nice, safe space.”
First in line was a Perkins kindergartener with his brother in tow. The boys crowded onto Santa’s lap, promising cookies and milk for his visit on Christmas Eve and carrots for his reindeer.
The older brother, who is visually impaired, smiled as his fingers traced the silky fur trim on Santa’s red coat and the flowing white hair of his beard. Meanwhile, his sibling told Santa exactly what he wants for Christmas: “A snowman, please.”
For students who are nonverbal or have multiple disabilities, Santa adopted a more relaxed demeanor, speaking quietly and humming carols. Josian, 3, relaxed against his shoulder, listening to the music, before adding his own voice to the last stanza of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”
Passing by in the hall, Eliz, 6, couldn’t resist a moment with Ol’ Saint Nick. She’s been good this year, she said, and already noticed a few presents under the tree with her name on them.
“Will you leave a cookie out for me this Christmas Eve?” Santa asked.
Eliz didn’t have to think long about her answer.
“No,” she said. “I’ll probably eat it myself.”