PHOTOS: Santa calls all the good boys, girls of Marco

Santa Claus has a southern annex on Marco Island. With all the Santa sightings locally, from choppering in to the Shops of Marco, to tree lighting and parades, he obviously spends a lot of time here, and after all, this is a popular winter destination, but apparently the Man in Red has now opened an actual branch office at the Greater Marco Family YMCA.

Mr. Claus, assisted by his helpers, reached out to the children of Marco on Sunday night, placing personal calls to youngsters, as has been his habit for the past seven years, according to the staffers assisting with the North Pole hotline. With a little pre-arrangement through mom and dad, Santa got on the phone and spoke directly to 69 local believers. Five other children missed the call, but did get a message from Santa on the family’s voicemail.

The first voice the child heard was the North Pole operator — as busy as Santa is, particularly in the week before Christmas, he can’t be placing all his own calls. The North Pole operator tended to have a nasal quality to her voice, as if months of subzero temperatures had given her a nasty cold, or almost as if she were pinching her nose as she spoke.

Helping to make the connections were the Y’s Dottie Wiener and Stephanie Pepper.

Then, accompanied by a jingle of sleigh bells, Santa came on the line. Assisting Mr. Claus’ work, with suitably hearty voices, were Ken Kubat, Peter Piro, and dean of the local Claus crew Marty Roddy.

Wishing the children a “Merry Christmas,” Santa displayed a voluminous knowledge of their affairs, including hair and eye color, brothers, sisters, pets, school and teachers’ names, best friend’s name. There could have been a connection to the “Santa’s Calling” forms that were filled out by parents at the Y earlier this month.

Santa also had suggestions for the kids to improve their behavior, and stay off the naughty list.

On the other end of the line, the young children were properly impressed to be talking to Santa. Robert Law, 6, got the call in his front yard around 7 p.m., sitting out on a brightly decorated Christmas landscape.

“Santa Claus, be sure to bring your reindeer on the 24th,” said Robert. “That’s when I put the food out for them by the front door.” At another point in the conversation, he responded “yes, she’s been good,” perhaps answering a question from Santa about mommy’s behavior.

Santa seemed already to know about the items on the children’s lists, but Robert specified anyhow.

“I want wheel shoes, a dark blue scooter and a bunch of surprises,” he told Santa, perhaps illuminating the idea that sometimes, not knowing is more fun. “Bye, Santa, see you at Christmas,” he said before handing the phone back to his mom, Crystal. Although technically, of course, he should not expect to see Santa when he makes his Christmas deliveries.

Robert was totally stoked to talk to Santa, zooming around the yard, jumping up and calling “Santa — Santa — Santa.”

Luckily, said his dad, also named Robert, the younger Robert’s energy has an off button.

“He’s all wound up, but as soon as he gets a bath and his head hits the pillow, he’s out,” said dad.

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