Student Santas brighten holidays for children in need

a holiday snowman covered in paper snowflakes

Paper snowflakes with children's holiday wishes hang from a decorative snowman

Dozens of Drake students recently hosted a Holiday Wish Party for 21 local families unable to afford gifts for their children this season.

All of the children and their parents were invited to the annual party in Olmsted Center on Sunday, Dec. 5. The festivities, sponsored by Student Senate and the Student Life Office, featured refreshments, movies, games, a sing-along and two special guests — Santa and Drake’s mascot Spike.

While the kids were engaged by the fun, students helped load the gifts into the parents’ vehicles so the presents could magically appear in each family’s home on Christmas Day.

The 280 presents purchased primarily by Drake students were enough to provide each child with four gifts, including a book.

Dolph Pulliam, Drake’s director of community outreach, worked with the Des Moines Public Schools to identify low-income families for the program.

Children in these families compiled personal wish lists, which were attached to snowflakes and displayed on a snowman figure. Students, along with some faculty and staff members, selected snowflakes, then bought and wrapped the items on each wish list.

Adam Kaduce, now a second-year student at Drake Law School, has appeared as Santa at the Holiday Wish Parties since his freshman year, thanks to a Santa suit his father loaned him.

“This was Adam’s sixth year as Santa and he’s just the best Santa ever,” said Melissa Sturm-Smith, assistant dean of students. “He’s never out of character and the kids just love him.”

Drake students with Spike the Bulldog

Drake students pose with Spike

Kaduce, a native of Urbandale, said he got hooked on playing Santa that first year.

“A little girl climbed up on my lap and said Santa didn’t bring her any presents last year,” he recalled. “It was the greatest gift to be able to tell her that this year would be different — there would be presents for her under the tree.

“I’ve been playing Santa ever since,” he added. “It’s the best thing I do. I plan to do it for the rest of my life — or at least as long I can fit into the Santa suit.”

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