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I was recently chatting with my friend Joe Dawicki, an esteemed member of the New England Santa Society. We were discussing how the New Bedford Marine Corp League and New Bedford-area Freemasons together are collecting for Toys for Tots, but it also made some for some interesting discussion on how to most effectively play the role of Santa Claus.
"As Santa, you never promise the child anything," he said. "When they ask for pets, I tell them that Santa doesn't like to bring a puppy or a kitty because they can freeze in the bag, so it's best to go to the animal shelter with your family and pick one out."
Why would a distinguished person in the community, who serves on several civic boards and was a former foster parent, want to get a degree from Santa college?
"I simply want to do good things for others," Dawicki said. "The best part is when a child comes up to Santa for the very first time. I get down to their eye level, and you see authentic wonder as they feel my beard or chime the jingle bells."
In the true spirit of Christmas, Dawicki plays the role for that magic and wonder, rather than for a payday.
"I never will do this for money," he said. "I'll go on personal trips to hospitals, or to the children's Masonic breakfast and places that have an event, like the Mattapoisett Fire Department, but never commercially."
That wasn't all the Santa wisdom Dawicki had to impart. Were you aware that when Santa answers, "Hmm, I'll have to ask Mrs. Claus about that," it means that he's either stumped or doesn't want to answer the question?
He said Santa has to be a really good listener, be up on the latest games and toys, and always try to bring the message of hope to children. "That's the whole purpose behind Toys for Tots," he said.
Toys for Tots is holding a collection for toys to be distributed to the children of Greater New Bedford. The collection is scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 6 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the corner of County and Union Streets.
Bring a new, unwrapped toy and your camera to take photos with Santa. And of course, that age-old question may come up a time or two, but Dawicki is prepared.
"How do I answer when a child asks me if I'm the real Santa?" Dawicki said. "I ask them, 'Are you the real you?'"
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