Santa calls Suffolk kids

Published 10:13 pm Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Caution: Spoiler (for kids)

Dozens of children who answered the phone at their homes Monday and Tuesday nights were delighted to hear Santa Claus on the other end of the line.

“Ho, ho, ho! Merry Christmas,” he would say, sounding jolly and bright.

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Santa went on to field toy requests from the children, answer a barrage of questions and win over dubious kids with seemingly supernatural knowledge of the children’s names and ages what they wanted for Christmas, as well as the names of their schools, their best friends, their pets, their siblings and, in one case, even their Elf on the Shelf.

Santa’s helper Denis Confer rings bells to simulate reindeer in the background while talking to a child on Monday night. He was one of several volunteers from the Magnolia Ruritan Club who posed as the jolly old elf.

“Promise me: You’ve got to go to bed early,” Santa was heard to say to some of the kids.

“I know you’ve been good this year,” he said to others.

If a child talked too long or became overly suspicious, he or she heard reindeer bells ringing in the background, a sign the reindeer wanted to be fed, and Santa would end the phone call so he could tend to their needs.

“They’re bugging me, because they want to eat,” Santa said.

The kids were wise to doubt it was Santa calling. In fact, it was some of Santa’s helpers — volunteers from Magnolia Ruritan Club — posing as the jolly old elf. The volunteers were calling children whose parents had requested the call and provided the information that Santa knew.

“It was really entertaining with some of the children,” said Denis Confer, who was doing the project for the first time. “I got the third degree from two or three of them. The bells are the item that wins them over.”

The kids are amazed when they hear the one thing that convinces them. One child told club member Harrell Jory, who has participated in the calls for a number of years, that he had seen him in the Norfolk Christmas parade.

“I saw you, but I didn’t have time to talk to you,” was Jory’s quick-thinking response.

Confer had a special technique when calling siblings. He asked to speak to the younger one first.

“When you get to the second one, you already have them bought in,” Confer said.

Confer also surprised one child by knowing the name of his Elf on the Shelf: “Darby’s been letting me know how you’ve been doing.” The child was amazed, he reported.

The volunteers said they enjoy doing the program, which is sponsored by the city’s Parks and Recreation Department.

“Some of these kids will melt your heart,” Jory said. “To me, it’s just so much fun.”