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Santa pays a special visit

William Ferchland, Tahoe Daily Tribune
Jim Grant/Tahoe Daily TribuneSpencer White is all smiles as he shows Santa his present that he had just opened.
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With a boot stomp, a bell ring and Mrs. Claus in tow, Santa stepped through the doorway to meet delighted children and smiling parents.

St. Nick visited Lake Tahoe Unified School District’s preschool special education program, located at Al Tahoe Elementary School, Wednesday afternoon. The visit, sponsored by the Kiwanis Club, included toys and tickles for mentally and physically challenged children.

Preschoolers, ages 3 to 5, sat mesmerized by Santa Claus, balancing on a tiny brown plastic chair, with Mrs. Claus on his right. A large white sack loomed in front of her.

A rectangular box, wrapped in red and green paper, was pulled from the bag and Ronnie’s name was called. The youngster remained cemented in his chair.

“He’s going to wait,” the crowd assured, as Ronnie sat shyly with his chin to his chest.

Kiwanis member Steve Cook said each child submitted a wish list of three presents. Preschool teachers Pat Smith and Judy Simmons chose gifts they deemed appropriate for children who were unable to communicate their desires.

Cook said he didn’t want to leave out the students’ siblings, so extra gifts were purchased.

Zakri, a young child who uses sign language, ambled toward Santa and hopped on his lap. Through signing, he told Santa he wants a bear and a car. Santa’s curly white beard tickled his chin.

Zakri left and opened a log cabin set.

Lake Tahoe Unified Superintendent Diane Scheerhorn watched the children playing with remote-controlled cars, mechanical fire trucks and wooden building blocks.

“It’s heartwarming,” she said.

Smith, who has taught for 14 years at Al Tahoe Elementary School, scanned the room with a smile.

She spotted Spencer, who was trying to get a handle on his remote control car. The car would not move forward. After settling the car, he sat in his chair, crossed his legs and bit into a Christmas cookie. The car rested under his arm.

“Some of the kids don’t communicate very well,” Smith said. “Somehow, they all understand Santa.”


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