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December 13, 2009 - 1:00pm

Public and private schools both warmly welcome Santa

posted by Daniel Crofts in st. joseph school, John Kennedy School, Santa.

Where's Santa Claus?

Here he is!

(You can't tell, but he is smiling underneath the beard.)

Wait a minute...here he is again!

Bella March (upper left) and siblings Violet (lower left) and Norman, sitting with Santa. Photo courtesy of Kelly March.

You'll always catch fleeting glimpses of the Man in the Red Suit at Christmastime. Our own Howard Owens spotted him on Main Street last week. You're likely to catch him at the mall at least once, and you might even see him on the front lawns of festively decorated houses (although for some reason he never seems to feel like talking in those instances).

If you live in Batavia, you could have found him this weekend where his two favorite things were present: families and food.

Santa's weekend in Batavia kicked off with the "Supper with Santa" at St. Joseph's School, an annual event sponsored and funded by St. Joe's home school association, SOS (Supporters of St. Joseph's) and catered by Paulie's Pizzeria. On Saturday morning he was at John Kennedy Elementary School's "Pancake Breakfast with Santa," which was put on by the John Kennedy Parent Group (JKPG).

Good Saint Nick had no shortage of admirers at either event. Children waited in long lines to tell him their Christmas wishes. Most people would probably become overwhelmed trying to keep track of each child's Christmas list, but it was no problem for Santa. His ability to remember non-written Christmas lists comes from his talent for seeing and appreciating each child's unique personality.

"All it takes," Santa said, "is to see their faces and hear their voices."

Santa at St. Joe's with, left to right, Nicky Ventola and Moira and Clara Werner. Photo courtesy of Nora O'Neill.

The kids got an up-close look at Santa's personality, too.

"He's very fun," St. Joe's first-grader Amanda Bergman said. "Fun to be with."

Knowing such an important visitor was coming, parents and staff of both schools spent a lot of time in preparation.

"We always plan a year in advance," said Nora O'Neill, marketing director for St. Joe's. "Soon after the event is over, we start planning for the next year."

...Kind of like Santa himself, who prepares for Christmas Eve a year ahead!

JKPG President Shari Ange credits parent Sherri Wahr with coming up with the idea for the Pancake Breakfast at the group's last meeting three months ago.

"We used to have a breakfast at Applebee's for Easter," Ange said. "Sherri thought it would be great to have a breakfast with Santa. Hopefully we can make this an annual thing."

St. Joe's set the mood for Santa's visit with Christmas carols performed by Batavia resident Richard Conroy, while JK had Christmas music playing over the intercom. Activities in celebration of the honored guest included floor dancing (St. Joe's) and games such as Elf Hockey and Santa Bowling (JK).

Amanda Bergman (left) on the dance floor with Violet March. Photo courtesy of Kelly March.

BHS senior Cody Mulcahy oversees a JK first-grader's performance in Santa Bowl.

Another way everyone honored Santa was by imitating his generosity. As is the case with most private schools, financial issues are always a concern for St. Joe's staff - still, they committed their resources to making Supper with Santa a fun social event for the kids. At both St. Joe's and JK, parents and students volunteered their time to serve food, help with activities, etc.

JK student helpers Kennedy Kolb (front), Katie Ange, Tanner Kolb and Jenna Whitmore (back, left to right).

JK students showed Santa their Christmas spirit by making cards in the school's gymnasium.

Madeline Taggart (left) with her sister, Bridget, making cards for Santa.

Because Santa was busy listening to Christmas wishes, their cards will be sent to Macy's first, and for every card received Macy's will donate $1 to the Make-a-Wish Foundation.

Skylar Rossi (left), Lydia Wahr (center) and Maggie Andersen, making cards for troops in Iraq.

"Santa represents the spirit of giving," Sherri Wahr said. "And he's all about bringing families together."

For the St. Joe's community, Santa also has some religious significance.

"Our message to the kids is to remind them that he is a saint," O'Neill said. "So our traditions [the Christian tradition and Santa Claus lore] can coexist."

The welcome sign at the front entrance of St. Joe's included a picture of Santa Claus holding the Baby Jesus in his arms. O'Neill said this helps remind the kids what Christmas is really all about. Santa appears to agree with her.

"Christmas is about the Baby Jesus," Santa said. "He plays it first and then I come in behind Him."

For those interested in what Santa had to tell The Batavian about himself, stay tuned for Q&A with Santa, coming up shortly.

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