By JOHN BENSON
Special to The Gazette
Impersonating Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus over the phone was never the intention of Liverpool Township residents Toni and Jack Winget.
However, thatâ€™s exactly what the married couple has been doing for the past few years for family and friends.
Now feeling as though theyâ€™re ready for the big time, the grandparents of 10 are offering their services to eager parents who either canâ€™t make it to the mall to see St. Nick in person or want to complement that visit with a personalized phone call from the North Pole.
â€œJack has played Santa in the past, but weâ€™ve just been doing the Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus phone calls over the last three years,â€ said Toni Winget, a Rocky River native. â€œWe thought it was so much fun, and we kind of missed it when we didnâ€™t have anybody else to call. So we thought, â€˜OK, next year weâ€™re going to get ourselves organized to see if anyone else wants us to call.â€™ â€
Since parents always wanted to give the couple a gift for their holiday phone call, Winget came up with the idea of families donating $10 to one of the following charities: American Cancer Society, American Diabetes Association, Crohnâ€™s and Colitis Foundation of America or the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinsonâ€™s Research.
What makes the experience truly unique and extraordinary is the fact Santa and his old lady are informed of certain insider knowledge ahead of time.
â€œWhen we call the children, and we already know things about them because Grammy or whoever would tell us what books they were reading or who their friends were or what their favorite toy was,â€ Winget said. â€œItâ€™s so much fun because the kids would be so excited. It wasnâ€™t just a stranger in a mall who doesnâ€™t know a thing about them. It was really Santa Claus on the phone and Jack has a great voice for Santa.â€
Winget said last year Santaâ€™s magic included â€” upon a suggestion from her mom â€” politely telling a 3-year-old girl it was time to be potty trained.
Literally the next day, the girl, after Santaâ€™s suggestion and clearly knowing he was making a list, was fully potty trained.
â€œWe usually tame it down for the kids and tell them not to leave too many cookies for Santa because heâ€™s getting too fat,â€ Winget said. â€œHe needs to watch his weight so he can fit down the chimneys. The kids take all of this stuff in and are just so enthralled by it. And afterwards, the older kids go tell their friends, â€˜See, I told you there is a real Santa.â€™â€
For those parents looking to schedule a phone call from Santa, e-mail Winget at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Benson may be reached at email@example.com.