Peg O’Malley

peg.jpgThe first time I volunteered at Santa Visits Alviso, I didn’t know what to expect. But what I saw, I certainly did not expect!

Judy Santiago and my husband, Sean, worked together for years at National Semiconductor. I knew Judy and her husband, Joe, were actively involved in several holiday festivities and one year Judy asked if I would want to go with them to Alviso for the holiday festivities at the school.

When she told me what it was about, I jumped at the chance. So, on a rainy, dreary Saturday morning in December, I drove to Alviso with Joe and Judy. It was about 2 hours before the kids were going to see Santa but the school was already a hub of activity.

As Joe and Judy were transforming themselves into Santa and Mrs. Claus, I took a walk around the building to get a layout of the land. What I saw I did not expect. There must have been over 200 adults and children already standing in line, in the rain, waiting to see Santa! The fire department was distributing smoke alarms; there was hot chocolate, munchies and even an Elvis impersonator entertaining in the gym. And finally, it was time!

The kids and their parents were brought in to see Santa. The kids’ oh, my heavens, the kids! Some were dressed in regular day clothes, others were dressed in pretty little dresses and suits like they were going to church. Some kids were excited, some were scared, some looked at Santa with wide-eyed wonder, some couldn’t wait to tear open their presents and some of the parents cried. Because as their children were being given candy canes, books, a present and having their picture taken with Santa, they knew this would be the only Christmas they would have.

Some six hours later, the last child was seen and the last gift was given. I have no idea how may hundreds of kids were seen that day it didn’t matter.

We may have been exhausted, especially Santa, but we all felt the same sense of fulfillment in knowing that not a single child was turned away.

As the years went by you would see new faces but some familiar ones as well. The kids had gotten a little older but always seem to turn into little kids again once they saw Santa. And the familiar faces that you didn’t see anymore, you hoped the best for them.

Santa Visits Alviso is a project that started out over 20 years ago as a way to help a small community that some people in the Valley didn’t even know existed. It has developed into an annual event that I look forward to doing whenever I can. With corporate and individual donations, I hope to be able to continue this worthwhile program for many more years, and many more thousands of kids, to come.

Peg O’Malley