Bruce Lund on Being Santa….

by Bruce Lund | 16 Jan 2024

Biographies and Interviews

I was a toy inventor. Had been for years. I was Santa Claus in my 5th grade play.  I had for years thought about being Santa again, and providing toys and games as well, but where, how?  I was a toy inventor so it seemed just the right thing to do. But perhaps just a fanciful dream.    


Sitting in my office on Sunnyside one day, between the El tracks and the ‘IC line’, on one of the last brick streets in Chicago, I got a call asking me to buy some magazines to support Big Brothers Big Sisters of Chicagoland.  I had no interest in buying magazine, but I suggested that I would like to be Santa and give away toys.   I suggested they ask someone about this offer. Not too much later I was called back and told that their Santa had quit, and the supporters who provided toys and games was no longer going to be of assistance to them.   No Santa, no Toys!   We are in!!  


So I bought the Santa suit, and elf suits as well for my team, we sent letters out to our toy companies asking for toys and games we could give the kids and we went to the Big Brothers Big Sisters' Chicagoland holiday party as Santa and his merry band of elves.  We gave away hundreds of toys, making every one who stood in line to get a gift sit on Santa’s lap. Over 25 years we gave away 10’s of thousands of toys and games.  


If you have never been Santa, and perhaps even if you have, you may never know the joy of being Santa. From getting dressed, padding oneself with pillows, gluing on the beard and mustache, putting on the heavy black belt I had made and my father-in-laws black leather lace up boots that must have been 50 years old. I became Santa.  With the green cassocks, the hats, beards, pointy ears my team became the best set of elves the world has ever seen.  I practiced my Ho Ho Ho’s a bit and we were ready. We did that for Chicagoland Big Brothers Big Sisters for 25 years or more.     


Now Big Brothers Big Sisters is more disorganization than it is an organization.  Full of volunteers and most of the faces of the group were different each year.   They rarely remembered us because while we stayed the same, they changed, and for the most part they forgot what we did.   We went from restaurant to school gym, to White Sox Ball Park, wherever they were donated a place to have the party.  Sometimes it seemed the elves needed to protect Santa, the crowd was so rowdy.    


And to be Santa, in spirit as well as in costume, the elves gave me each childs name secretly before they introduced me and I could call them each by name when they sat on my lap. I would ask about their brothers and sisters as most of them had them at home. They felt, as I wanted them to, that Santa knew them and their family.    


I suggested work hard in school, pay attention to the adults, and just to be the very best they can, and don’t forget to leave out the chocolate chip cookies and milk for Santa and the Elves. It was just as I did as a kid, leaving out milk and cookies, and looking at the ash footprints on Christmas morning by the fireplace, and the footprints of ash on the carpet where Santa stood in my living room near the tree. I remember it well, and I wanted others to have that joy too.    


For an hour or two I was Santa.  Every bit of me was working  hard to create magic and joy for these kids. Ho Ho Ho-ing, waving, wishing everyone Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, etc and etc, and handing out the gifts our most exquisite partners in the industry had donated to use for this party.  


In some cases we would also dress up as Santa and the Elves and go to a local ‘orphanage’ in Oak Park. Some of the kids would cry. Some would say that “Santa found them”. They were afraid he wouldn’t know where they were.   But Santa found them regardless of what had happened to them. He didn’t let them out of his sight.    


When we moved our office out to River Forest we made an animated ‘Santa’ Mailbox with rotating eyes, moving mouth, it was for kids who can put letter in to Santa.  It was way cool, animated, and we would get hundred letters every year.   And for those who put their name and address on their letters, we would deliver late on Christmas Eve some of those toys and games right to their door.  Rough neighborhoods, but very happy kids and parents.    


The photograph at the top of this article was taken when I rode my bike across America dressed as Santa posting Santa pictures along the way to raise money for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Chicago. That was a trip to remember! 


Being Santa was a miracle. It all came from that one call, a dream, and a question of, “Can I….?”   A prayer, really.   

santa toy inventor big brothers

Tait & Lily, Inventors of Betcha Can't!