As Operation Santa celebrates its 100th anniversary, the organization is also gearing up for one of its toughest seasons.
Since 1912, the national holiday initiative, born from the U.S. Post Office, has assembled volunteer “elves” to sift through letters written to Santa and find donors to help fulfill their wishes.
But this year will likely be one of the initiative’s most challenging. Pete Fontana, Operation Santa's Chief Elf, told WUSA that some letters have been particularly heartbreaking this year.
"Dear Santa, I am writing this letter to you because I really want gifts this year, but I don't think my parents have the money to really get me anything," one child wrote.
The number of parents out of work is still high and Hurricane Sandy survivors who have lost it all just don’t have the extra cash to buy gifts, WUSA reports.
Operation Santa is anticipating 10,000 letters in its New York location alone, and though the program will do its best to bring presents to kids in need, some tall orders will likely be out of the volunteers’ reach.
Alan Kerr, head elf at EmailSanta.com –- another program that lets kids write letters directly to Santa, and follow @KringleClaus on Twitter -- told the "Today Show" that he, too, has gotten some heartbreaking missives. And many go beyond simple requests for toys.
“It’s more than just presents,” Carole S. Slotterback, a professor of psychology at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania and author of The Psychology of Santa, told "Today" of the relationship children develop with Santa Claus.
“He's kind of a confidant," Slotterback explained. "Some of the letters that I’ve analyzed don’t ask for any presents at all. All they want is for their mom and dad to stop fighting for once and be nice to each other, or they want Santa to send an angel to watch over their grandmother.”
Feeling inspired? Find out how you can get involved with Operation Santa here.