Albert “Santa Al” Krush works year-round to visit children in the hospital, and he never arrives empty-handed. Donning a red business suit in the off-season, he donates his time and toys to bring joy to those in need.
It’s not an easy job, but it’s one the 74-year-old has been happy to do for more than 20 years.
He works with the Toys for Tots program in Pierce County, and last year donated 2,000 gifts to the program.
This year, he’s sponsoring Christmas for a family at Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital, and Wednesday he will deliver presents to low-income families in the Tacoma area who are living in public housing.
Gearing up for the holidays, he explained between bookings what it takes to be a Santa’s helper.
Question: What’s the best part of your job?
Answer: Doing what the true spirit of Christmas is about – reaching out to those in need.
Q: What’s important for children to know about Christmas?
A: Parents should teach their children about Saint Nicholas and the true spirit of Christmas. It’s not about something we do one time a year. It’s something we should do every day.
Q: You’ve been to Santa School. What did you learn?
A: There’s a lot to know. Most people think all you have to do is have a big belly, red suit, sit in a chair, and you’re Santa. There’s so much more to it. When you’re talking with children, you have to be able to answer their questions right away. Anything they ask me, I can answer directly. If they ask me where my sleigh and reindeer is, I tell them.
Q: Where do you tell them they are?
A: My reindeer and sleigh are at Boeing Field. Ever since 9/11, the FAA thought it might not be a good idea for me to fly around all the time.
Q: What do you say when kids ask how there are so many Santas?
A: So many kids want to talk to Santa and get their pictures taken with Santa that a lot of men dress up like Santa so you can get your picture. And he tells Santa what you want.
Q: What’s the best gift anyone has ever asked you for?
A: The one that touched my heart the deepest was when I was asked to do an early Christmas for a little boy because they couldn’t do any more for him with the cancer. I had him sit on my lap and I’m being happy and jolly, because that’s what Santa has to do. He looked me right in the eye with a serious look, and he said: “I don’t want my mommy and daddy to cry for me, because I’m going to live with Jesus.” We prayed for his mommy and daddy together.
Q: What do children usually ask for?
A: The Xbox 360. They want tablets and the Kindle Fire. I had a kid the other day — and I can’t remember the last time anyone asked for it — ask for a BB gun. I was surprised.
Q: Do you like milk and cookies?
A: I do, and I have a story about that. Kids always tell me: “I’m going to leave milk and cookies.” I ask what kind. Ninety percent of the time they say chocolate chip.
I say: “I like chocolate chip, but see if you can leave me peanut butter cookies. Rudolph absolutely goes crazy over chocolate chip cookies. While I’m putting out the toys, Rudolph is two or three houses down, eating all the chocolate chip cookies. He just leaves me the carrots and celery.
“It’s no fun riding in a sleigh with a sick reindeer.”alexis.krell@ thenewstribune.com www.thenewstribune.com/crime-news @amkrell