November 27, 2012
College of Wooster seniors Jordan Dieterle (left) and Maggie Roberts (right) serve as "elves" for Santa (William Dieterle, center) in his distribution of gifts to terminally ill children through Santa's Hide-A-Way Hollow.
WOOSTER, Ohio — Jordan Dieterle claims that her father is Santa Claus…and she’s not kidding. A resident of Middlefield, Ohio, and a senior biology major at The College of Wooster, Dieterle and her dad are part of Santa’s Hide-A-Way Hollow, a non-profit charity through which volunteers visit terminally ill children in hospitals and homes to celebrate what could be their last Christmas.
Dieterle’s father, William, began the charity more than 30 years ago. His frequent business trips when Dieterle was a child led her to believe that he was actually visiting the North Pole. By the time she was 4-years-old, Dieterle was helping prepare her dad (a.k.a. Santa) for his visits by wrapping presents for the children he would stop to see. Her parents decided that she was emotionally ready to serve as an “elf” when she was in eighth grade, even though most don’t begin to visit children until they are in high school or college.
“While most visits are heartbreaking, we leave knowing that we made a difference,” says Dieterle. “Seeing the children’s joy when they open the gifts the ‘elves’ made just for them reminds us why we are there.”
Because of the nature of the work, volunteers often experience considerable emotional stress. “It never gets any easier,” says Dieterle. “There are times when an ‘elf’ will see a child in a hospital and be reminded of a brother, sister, cousin, etc. The only way to stay upbeat is to remember why we are there…to give the children and their families a lasting memory and a short break from the pain.”
The children love to see Santa and his elves, regardless of their age, religion, or ethnicity. Parents often ask doctors to delay a scheduled surgery until after they have had a chance to spend time with Santa. When children are visited at home, volunteers sometimes bring autographs of the child’s favorite sports star or musician.
Dieterle hopes that by spreading the word about this charity, others will be moved to participate, whether through volunteering their time, donating money, or wrapping gifts. This year, she is getting a boost from fellow senior and elf volunteer, Maggie Roberts, who is holding a three-day fundraiser to promote and support Santa’s efforts.
Roberts’s promotion of Santa’s Hide-A-Way Hollow at The College of Wooster will be Dec. 3-5. “Volunteers will inform visitors, students, faculty, and staff about the experience of volunteering for Santa, or simply (provide) background information about the non-profit and what it involves,” says Roberts. “There will also be a toy drive, holiday-themed food items, t-shirt sales, and an opportunity to write letters to Santa. All events will be student run.
“Over the years, such joy has been brought to my life during the holidays,” adds Roberts. ”In particular, Christmas is a time of the year when I reflect on how fortunate I really am to have and do all I do. Whether driven by charity, giving, spending, or even religion, it is a time of the year when many come together and realize what they are thankful for.”
- Written by Libby Fackler ‘13
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