By Jill Keppeler
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — Santa Claus couldn’t confirm that he brought the snowy weather to Western New York on Friday on his way into North Tonawanda.
But he didn’t deny it, either.
“We’re just trying to help everyone get into the Christmas spirit,” he said with a smile and a wink, pausing for a moment before moving on the next child — and the next Christmas list — in the room.
On Friday, the Macy’s National Bus Tour rolled into Wendelville Fire Company in North Tonawanda, with the jolly ol’ man himself taking the time to meet with a group of Make-A-Wish children and their families before continuing on to the Macy’s store at the Walden Galleria Mall in Cheektowaga for a public appearance.
Mary Moore of Make-A-Wish Foundation of Western New York said that 17 local families, all of which have had wishes granted in the past, attended the event, which was held at the fire company due to the organization’s prior involvement with the group.
Chief Shawn Christman said that Wendelville, among others, helped grant a boy’s wish to be a fireman for a day last year.
“When they called again, we just couldn’t say no,” he said. “We had such a blast the last time. It’s one of the days we just get to have fun.”
The Fisher family, Elizabeth, Michael, Lily, 5, and Charlotte, 2 months, of Amherst, settled at a table to wait for Santa while Lily worked on her Christmas list.
(”I would like a toy train and My Little Pony.”)
Lily, who had a brain tumor removed in September 2010, received her wish of a princess playhouse in May.
“They’re a super organization,” Michael said.
Iwona Maxick sat with her daughters, Adelina, 6, and Eliana, 3, of Lackawanna as the girls busily wrote and drew their Christmas lists. Adelina was diagnosed with Wilms tumor, a type of kidney cancer, in December 2009. Through Make-A-Wish, the family was able to visit Walt Disney World earlier this year.
“I got to go on the magic carpet ride,” she said, still excited months later. “It was really cool!”
Iwona Maxick shook her head when talking about the trip. “It was beyond my wildest dreams,” she said. “It was fabulous. What they do for families ... it’s unbelievable.”
Adelina has been in remission for two years now, but Iwona still keeps in contact with another parent she met through the Make-A-Wish organization. That family wasn’t as fortunate.
“I’ve seen what they can do for a child ... a family ... who doesn’t have that hope anymore,” she said with tears in her eyes. “His parents will always have those memories.”
Santa arrived on the shiny red Macy’s tour bus in a flurry of snowflakes, entering the building with a rousing “Ho, ho, ho!” and greeting the children before settling down before a roaring fire to read “ ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” to the group gathered around him.
Then, one by one, he reviewed Christmas lists and spoke to each child, fielding requests for everything from Star Wars toys to Harry Potter books and crayons and toy trains to various gadgetry and video-game systems. Occasionally, he proved to the children that he’s still trying to keep up with the latest fads, from One Direction to Angry Birds. (In fact, he admits being hooked on the latter.)
Sarah Skomra of Lackawanna sat up front with her son, Benjamin, 3, and his sister Haley, 4, listening to Haley wish for an Easy-Bake Oven and Benjamin’s request for train tracks. Benjamin, who requires blood transfusions every three weeks, and his family visited Walt Disney World in September through the efforts of Make-A-Wish, she said.
“They’ve done so much for us,” she said. “It’s remarkable.”
After all the Christmas lists had been reviewed and each child got some time with Santa, he joined the group for a tour of the fire station before heading out to the Galleria Macy’s.
First, however, he paused to share what means the most to him about the children and the time he spends with them.
“To be able to hear from the children about what they want ... and how unselfish they are,” he said. “Now that they’ve had their wishes granted, they want others to have their wishes as well. That’s the thing with Make-A-Wish ... it’s not just the child. It’s the entire family.”
No matter what wish is granted, from a Walt Disney World trip to a playhouse to a day as a firefighter, Santa said, “This is a time that children are not sick. This is a time when they’re not in pain. And as a family, they get to be together. That’s why Make-A-Wish is so important.”
A Make-A-Wish Foundation has granted the wishes of more than 200,000 children with life-threatening medical conditions in the United States and its territories since 1980. The foundation estimates a wish is granted every 40 minutes.