Twenty-two years ago, Kriss Kringle donned a red velvet suit with plush white trim for the very first time. Back then, it was personal — a fun way to commemorate his daughter’s first Christmas with his family. But as time has passed, the Lee’s Summit man has become one of Santa’s most special Kansas City-area helpers. He’s motivated by a heartfelt desire for authenticity both in appearance and deed, bringing joy to children who need it the most and embodying the true spirit of the season.
For Kringle, who prefers to use his Christmastime name in this article, the holiday season never goes away.
“Especially when I look in the mirror, it’s obvious it’s close-by,” Kringle says. “When we get to this time of year, our hearts beat a little faster. There’s a special excitement, as well as surprises and unexpected joy that we receive and hopefully give each year.”
Each year, Kringle receives hundreds of letters e-mailed to Santa via his website http://kriss-kringle.com to which he personally responds, as well as inquiries for holiday appearances throughout the KC-metro area. He appears as Santa 50-60 times during the months of November and December, donating the proceeds to causes and charities that uplift children.
An important moment for Kringle took place during the Christmas season of 2005. Through his website, he received an e-mail from 8-year-old Kathleen who lived in Ontario, Canada. Kathleen didn’t request anything for herself – all she asked was that Santa would bring her ill father a motorized wheelchair so he could play with her and her brothers.
It was a tall order, even for Santa, but Kringle assured Kathleen he’d do the best he could. With a little Christmas magic and a can-do attitude – he reached out to organizations in the little girl’s hometown asking for help. With the assistance of local nurses, Kathleen’s father received a motorized wheelchair in March 2006.
“That was a turning point for me,” Kringle says. “I decided that, by being Santa Claus, I could help people on a more personal level year-round. That’s when I began concentrating on using this role to help people who needed a lift.”
These days, in appearance, Kringle is a doppelganger for the jolly man year-round, with his very own snow-white beard, rosy cheeks and nose like a cherry. And inwardly as well, with his heart that yearns to help those most in need of some joy.
Every year after the World Series, Kringle takes two months of vacation from his day-job as an online news editor for Major League Baseball, and he begins what he calls his ‘Christmas mission’ full-time.
He kicks off the season by giving away the first gift of Christmas to a Dream Factory child at Longview Lake’s “Christmas in the Sky” event. He fills his schedule with special in-home holiday visits and corporate party appearances, but his heart is always inclined toward opportunities that allow him to give back. He asks for payment in the form of new, unwrapped toys, or for donations to purchase the goods that stock his big red bag.
One of Kringle’s favorite partnerships each year is hosting Santa’s Toy Shop at Ronald McDonald House. Last year he was able to deliver 700 toys and visit with the children and their families who are battling a serious childhood illness together.
And for the past 12 years, on Christmas Eve, he’s delivered presents and cheer to children spending that evening in the Salvation Army Children’s Shelter, a safe haven for children unable to remain in their homes due to a family crisis.
For Kringle, seeing children’s eyes light up when he enters the room never gets old.
“The best thing is seeing the adults’ eyes light up too,” he says.
You don’t have to wear a red suit to be like Santa Claus, Kringle advises – just be kind and listen. Then, reach a hand out and help others.
“Holidays aren’t always joyful for everyone. I think we need to be mindful of that and do what we can to make others feel good. The joy that you give is the joy that you get in return. That’s very important, especially this time of year.”
How do I share my wish list with you?
Go to Kriss Kringle at http://kriss-kringle.com/index.html and click ‘Contact Santa’ to send Santa your Christmas wishes or inquiries.
What do reindeer like to eat?
They love carrots and red bell peppers. If the carrots are fresh, they’ll swallow them whole.
How do you pace yourself eating with all the cookies and goodies left out?
If you leave treats behind, it upsets people. I’ll eat what I can, the rest I take with me to share with Mrs. Claus and the elves when I get back to the North Pole.