Santa and Mrs. Claus (sometimes referred to as Randy and Sandy Schriever) run a serious operation. “There’s much more to it than putting on a red suit and sitting in a chair,” says Mr. Claus. “When I talk to a child, I do more than just take a photo and ask what they want. I like to talk to them about how it’s important to do well in school, do your chores, brush your teeth, and be nice to your brothers and sisters because they will be your best friends someday.”
Mrs. Claus is responsible for working the line, getting some key tidbits of information about the kids, and then relaying it back to Santa so by the time a child sits on his lap, he’ll usually know their name and a few things about them. “The kids are blown away; they ask ‘How did you know my name?!’” Mrs. Claus also keeps the line organized and entertains the kids in line, a very important job, especially when it’s busy!
“The best thing is the Elf on a Shelf,” says Santa, speaking about the popular kid’s toy, an elf that watches over the child during the day and reports back to Santa each night. “I like to find out the name of their elf beforehand, and tell them the elf came to see me, and where he might be hiding the next day (with some teamwork from parents). I’ve had parents call me to tell me that their child really became a believer, and that they were so happy because they got to have their kid be a kid for one more year.”
Santa has had all manners of requests over the years; some funny, and some heartbreaking. “Sometimes kids ask if they can keep one of my reindeer as a pet,” laughs Santa, “or a horse or pony or some other animal that probably won’t be the easiest present to get.” Santa Claus often gets requests for the child’s parents to get back together, or to return from serving overseas in the military. “Once, a mom let me know that her husband had been killed in active duty, and she hadn’t told their daughter yet. The girl’s request to me was that her father come home. In those situations, it’s really important to say the right thing.”
For help with handling such situations, Santa goes to school. Organizations like “School for Santa” and “Professional Santa Claus” offer intensive trainings that help Santa deal with serious moments, as well as the legalities and general dos and don’ts of dealing with children. There is even a cruise that Santa goes on, where he is joined by hundreds of his brethren from all over the world to swap stories and help each other become the best Santas they can be.
Mr. and Mrs. Claus got their start about 20 years ago, volunteering for a church group. It went so well that other church groups, schools and hospitals started sending requests for their time, which they donated happily. It wasn’t until a few years ago that someone suggested Mr. and Mrs. Claus start working for money, which they realized they could use to buy stuffed animals for children in the hospital. For the Clauses, hospital visits are truly special. “There’s a quote that says ‘there is nothing better in the world than the laugh of a child.’ Sometimes I visit a child in the hospital who has a serious illness and may not have very long to live. But when they see Santa, there is a gleam in their eye and for a few minutes, there’s no illness, no worry, no problems. Putting a smile on their face is the best thing in the world.”
Santa Claus is also involved with TalkToSanta.com, where kids can call Santa from home and video chat with him live. It’s perfect for children who may have mobility issues, or for kids who just can’t get enough. “One child had seen me a few weeks ago at Glenwood Caverns, and called from the website because he just had more to talk to me about!”
“It’s a very fun, rewarding, and exciting month and a half,” says Santa. “We take it very seriously, and we love what we do. We’ve met a lot of wonderful people and good children.”
For Santa’s schedule at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, visit http://glenwoodcaverns.com/winter-on-mountain.html and scroll down to “Santa for the Kids.”