The child answered the phone on a recent night. Little did he know, it was a really long distance call.
“Hi, Max. This is Santa calling from the North Pole,” said Santa Claus, as jingle bells rang in the background. “I wanted to know what you want for Christmas.”
For about a dozen years, Forsyth County children have had an opportunity to speak with the jolly man through the parks and recreation department’s Santa’s Calling program.
Roston Maxie, recreation coordinator, said staff and volunteers work for two nights making the connections to Santa for children whose parents have signed them up.
Tuesday and Wednesday, about 150 local children shared their Christmas wishes, which Maxie said are “just precious.”
“That’s the magic part of it too,” he said. “They do have those little innocent wishes. They want a Wii or a special doll, and they’re just really, really excited about it.”
For six years, Maxie has headed the program from the Central Park Recreation Center.
“It’s a very special part of childhood,” he said of Santa. “That’s probably why I do it because it means a lot.”
With the county opening two new recreation centers next year, Maxie hopes there will be space for more volunteers. That, in turn, will mean more children can hear from Santa.
Santa usually chats about school, family and presents. And he seems to always know the names of the children’s pets and teachers, plus where they’ll be for the holiday.
“The elves were telling me that you’re going to the Florida Keys for Christmas,” Santa said to one boy.
To another: “How’s your dog, Snowball?” and “Have you been a good student at Carrington Academy?”
Recreation leader Marv Galliher, who has helped with the program for the past three years, said it gets smoother for Santa as time goes on.
On his phone, Santa could be heard telling one boy he loves him too, and asking another to leave out some cookies and milk on Christmas Eve.
Maxie said he’s glad the department makes the effort because it’s part of being a community.
The holiday has special meaning at his house, which helps him make Santa’s Calling a success each year.
“I’m married to this woman to whom it’s just totally real,” Maxie said. “There are traditions in our house that I just totally believe. So I can’t think of a question that would be hard to answer.”