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Children get into spirit at 'Deaf Santa' event

Dec. 08, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- Whether children are writing a letter to Santa Claus or meeting with him one-on-one, communication is key when it comes to relaying Christmas wishes to St. Nick.

That's why it was significant for Santa and Mrs. Claus to use their fluency in American Sign Language to check lists twice when it came to the more than 100 parents and children who visited Mountwest Community and Technical College Saturday morning for the school's annual "Brunch with Deaf Santa" event, said Leigh-Ann Brewer, the American Sign Langauge coordinator at the school.

"We started this several years ago because deaf children needed a Santa Claus who could communicate with them in their native language of A.S.L," Brewer said. "When I started working with the American Sign Language program here at the college, one day I asked some of our deaf students what they missed out on during childhood, and several of them said, 'We missed out on Santa.'

"This sort of grew out of that idea from the students, who missed out on that and didn't want for future generations to miss out on it."

Children were presented with gifts from Santa as well as an early brunch during the event, which was organized by MCTC faculty and students.

Jeremiah Cruz is the president of MCTC's American Sign Language Student Association. Cruz was born deaf, and, at 35 years old, he said the Santa at the event was the first one he ever encountered who was fluent in sign language.

"Growing up deaf, one of the main points and difficulty is communication because hearing children, when they are growing up, can communicate with Santa Claus," Cruz said. "For me, growing up, I couldn't communicate. There was a barrier. This is such an important opportunity for deaf children to meet an older deaf adult, who is Santa, who is fluent in there language. It's so inspirational to the children. It touches my heart to see all of the kids interact with Santa."

Ernest Williams and his wife, Vickie, have portrayed Santa and Mrs. Clause at the event since its inception. Ernest is deaf, and Vickie is deaf and mute.

"It's a wonderful experience to be Santa Claus," Ernest Williams said. "I can communicate with them, and finally they can communicate with someone. It's a big success and everyone is excited."

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