How does Santa spend Christmas Eve? Making house calls, of course.
On his busiest night of the year, Santa Claus found time to make house calls Friday, stopping to drop off presents, candy canes and some good cheer.
"I can put this in my Jayhawk toy box," said 4-year-old Nicholas Long, son of Cindi and Dennis Long, Lawrence, as he clutched his new stuffed Jayhawk doll.
It's been a busy week for Santa, who resumes the identity of Larry Kline today as he relaxes with family members. Kline, Lawrence, started his Rent-A-Santa business a month ago, investing $386 in boots, a suit and flowing white beard.
Friday night, however, Santa was taking care of business.
"Ho, ho, ho," he said as Nicholas' grandmother, Sondra Pence, opened the door to her west Lawrence home.
Shelly Wilson, 9, immediately started laughing. Santa was here!
After greeting Pence's grandchildren, including 10-year-old Ben Wilson and 1-year-old Carter Long, Santa settled on the couch and rummaged in his sack. Nicholas perched on his knee.
While taking the wrapping paper off the Jayhawk, he noticed how the paper resembled other wrapped presents under the tree. That was soon forgotten as the Jayhawk emerged from the paper.
"What do you want to be, Nicholas?" Santa asked.
"A Bronco," Nicholas said, betraying his allegiance to the Denver football team.
Soon, Carter was hugging his new stuffed elephant, Shelly was marveling at how Santa knew she wanted a dress for her American Girl Doll and Ben was thinking about playing his new wrestling video game. Another mission accomplished for Kline.
"We were all just so excited, we couldn't hardly wait to see the children's faces," Pence said.
It's the look on all the children's faces that makes it worthwhile for Kline, whose Santa career began 30 years ago in Lakewood, Calif. He joined the Jaycees, and eight of his 10 years as a member of the organization, he portrayed the jolly man.
"I enjoyed it so much then, I thought it was the time in my life to do it again," Kline said earlier this week.
In the weeks leading up to today, he donned the suit and beard for more than two dozen parties, including photo sessions at Hy-Vee, visits to the Ballard Community Center, local nursing homes and three house visits Christmas Eve. He also entertained the children at the United Child Development Center at the First United Methodist Church, where he attends church.
His guiding principle is outlined in the Jaycee creed: "That faith in God gives meaning and purpose to human life; that the brotherhood of man transcends the sovereignty of nations ..."
"I feel that if I can make someone happy through this and bring a smile to the children's faces and relieve people's stress -- that's what Christmas is about," Kline said.
There's no trick to the job, the 62-year-old Kline said, and he slipped into the character with ease even after two decades. He just remembers his father, "caring and happy-go-lucky."
"Everyone recognizes Santa, and they know he is a happy person, a jolly person, an outgoing person," he said. "It's my job to bring the happiness out of the children."
-- Chris Koger's phone message number is 832-7126. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.