Volunteer Santa Claus makes Christmas merry for area children

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 23, 2003

It's 8:30 p.m., three days before Christmas. Do you know where Santa Claus is? On North Second Street, looking for the Weisgarber house.

On that night, three little children were jumping for joy because Santa paid them a visit a little early.

For businessman Tom Brammer, the nights before Christmas are an opportunity to adopt an alter ego and share the holidays with young children who still believe in the magic of reindeer, elves and a man in a red suit. For the last 20 years, he has not only played Santa for local clubs, but also paid visits to people's homes, free of charge. His father, Perry Brammer did this when he was a kid. When his own kids came along, he took on the title.

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"This is my Christmas," Brammer said with a smile. "Just seeing the kids' faces, when you get that little kid who still believes."

Brammer is careful to get information about each child beforehand, so he can surprise the boy or girl as the all-knowledgeable Saint Nick.

"This one little girl had thrown a tantrum in the mall," Brammer recalled. "And her mom told me about it. So

when the little girl was sitting on my lap I said 'Have you been good?' and she said 'oh, yes' and I said 'What about that tantrum at the mall?' Great big tears came into her eyes and she looked at her mom and said 'I didn't know he was watching me then.'"

Brammer said while some kids ask for toys, he is often met by requests he can only pray about.

"One little girl climbed up on my lap and asked me to make her pappaw better, and then her little brother did, too. That kind of thing always gets to me. I've had kids ask me to get Mommy and Daddy back together."

Brammer said he usually elicits a promise from kids to do better in school or be better behaved, and he asks that they leave him some milk and cookies and the reindeer some hay or grass. He suspects

"a ton" of milk and cookies has been left out for him over the years.

"This is fun," Brammer said. "I should be paying people to be able to do this!"