Do you have a little Santa Claus in you?

Published 12:01 am Sunday, November 25, 2007

A child’s letter published in a newspaper asked a simple question, but started something that became a Christmas season legend.

The letter’s author, 8-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon, wrote the following lines to New York’s “The Sun” newspaper:

“DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old.

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“Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.

“Papa says, ‘If you see it in THE SUN it’s so.’

“Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?

Veteran newsman Francis Pharcellus Church’s response to Virginia’s letter is legendary.

Church’s words, written in 1897 still stir childhood wonder in all of us.

Hundreds of newspapers — including The Natchez Democrat — republish Church’s wisdom each year.

“Virginia, your little friends are wrong. … Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.”

Perhaps a sense of wonder sparked by Church’s words helped motivate former Democrat publisher James Lambert a few years later when he founded what eventually became the Children’s Christmas Tree Fund.

Specific accounts differ on exactly when Lambert founded it. But what’s certain is that his aim was to share the spirit of Christmas with less fortunate children in the area.

Mr. Lambert died a few years after he formed the fund, but his family and their friends have carried on his giving spirit.

Through the years, literally thousands of Natchez area children have been blessed by special Christmas gifts provided for by the volunteers of the fund.

Alas! How dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus.

The Children’s Christmas Tree Fund has, through the years, become partners with two other non-profits — Catholic Charities and the Santa Claus Committee.

Catholic Charities helps determine the children with the largest need and handles the registration process.

The Santa Claus Committee provides funding and also provides a series of stand-in Santas to help distribute the toys on Christmas Eve since the real Santa is at the North Pole getting the sleigh tuned up for global travel.

And the Children’s Christmas Tree Fund serves as the funding agency, working to raise funds, purchasing all the gifts and packing up all the toys prior to distribution.

Lambert’s dream has certainly made some children’s Christmases a little brighter.

Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

But the key to the whole event, however, is you. Buying toys for approximately 300 children isn’t cheap, or easy.

The biggest need the group generally needs is funds. The number of children served is limited by the amount of funds they receive.

Wouldn’t it be nice if money weren’t the limiter there?

To that end, The Natchez Democrat aims to help the group out a bit and we challenge other area businesses to do the same.

This is an easy challenge. We’re not asking for the moon.

Imagine if area businesses donated just $5 for each of their employees.

We know that your businesses get requests for all kinds of charitable donations each year, but what a more wondrous way to brighten a child’s day.

If you’re not a business, and you don’t normally give to the fund, try just $5. It’s the cost of a few soft drinks.

Donating is simple; just mail your gift to:

Christmas Tree Fund, P.O. Box 1082, Natchez, MS 39121

Or drop them by our office at 503 N. Canal St.

You can be assured your donation — no matter the size — will help brighten a young person’s Christmas.

Do you have a little Santa Claus in you? Somewhere the next Virginia Hanlon hopes you do.

Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or