Santa’s visit, for a cause

Dec. 20, 2013 @ 10:25 PM

Michaela Olds drove to The Streets at Southpoint mall in Durham last year for her son to take a picture with Santa, an important tradition for Olds and her family.

“When he looks back at pictures of his life, I want him to see how rich it was,” she said.

This time, she didn’t need to make as long of a commute.

Olds and her 2-year-old son Gabriel joined a couple dozen other families at Tots-N-More consignment shop Friday to take pictures with Santa and Mrs. Claus.

“We wanted to do Santa last year, but we opened in December so we didn’t have enough time,” said Joyce Doughty, who opened the store about a year ago. “We are celebrating our first year with Santa instead.”

The store offered one free photo for each child and any additional photo for $1.

“Some of these people are routine customers and some are coming in for the first time,” Doughty said.

Kayla Gilleland and her daughter Annalyse came for a picture Friday, but the 9-month-old can’t yet tell Santa what she wants for Christmas.

Gilleland said she and her relatives would take pictures with Santa when she was growing up.

“I think it’s nice to still have some kind of magic,” she said. “We know there is so much bad in the world, and we need to be reminded of the good.”

John Mann and his wife Norma, who dressed as the Clauses, have been playing the role for the past 11 years.

“If I had known it was this much fun, I would have started much earlier,” John said.

He said home visits are his favorite type of setting since it affords him the most time to spend with the children.

The couple worked one year at Northgate Mall in Durham, and the experience was much less personal.

“I like talking to them because that is what they want to do,” he said.

Doughty said the money they received from Santa photos would be donated to a multiple sclerosis research organization.

The Mann’s youngest daughter was diagnosed with the disease when she was only 26 years old.

The couple, who have four children and seven grandchildren, use some of the donations they receive to offset their daughter’s living expenses since she can no longer work.

The Mann’s joyful spirit and striking resemblance to the seasonal favorites makes them much sought after this time of year.

The couple said there are some who call to reserve them a year in advance.

“I was calling him as soon as I found out he was available,” Doughty said.


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