TRADITION DECREES that Santa Claus lives
at the North Pole. This story may convince
you he lives in Montreal.
Ten years ago, Costco member Walter
Letham wanted to surprise his 2-year-old
grandson on Christmas morning by waking
“So I went off to rent a Santa Claus
suit,” he recalls, “and thought, ‘My God, if
I’m going to be Santa, it better be a good
suit,’ and everything I saw was garbage.”
So he purchased a custom-made
Santa suit for $1,500.
After he repeated the family tradition
with his grandchildren for a few years, his
daughter asked if he would visit some of
her friends’ houses. He found himself visiting 10 houses, picking up a bag of presents outside the back door as early as
5: 30 on Christmas morning and entering
to surprise sleeping children.
When the children reached ages
where they started to question Santa,
rather than retiring the suit to mothballs,
Letham found another use for it.
“There’s an organization in Montreal
called Dans la Rue [
We feed 350 kids a day who
live on the streets,” he says.
Then it dawned on
Letham: “With street kids,
there are street mothers,”
he thought. “Why don’t
we do a party for young
mothers with kids and
no money? We put it all
together and ended up
doing a Christmas party—
and still do it today—where
we have the young mothers
who come with their chil-
dren. We provide a lunch for
them, we provide entertainment for them
and we provide gifts.”
Letham funded the party, providing food,
entertainment and gifts. And, of course,
“It’s something to sit there being Santa,
giving a gift or the only two gifts they’re
going to get for Christmas,” Letham explains,
“when the mother is sitting on your left knee
and she’s 15 and the daughter’s sitting on
your right knee and she’s 2.”
Letham procures toy donations and
augments them with his own purchases
to cover all age groups. But his contribu-
tions don’t start and stop with Christmas.
He works with the organization year-round.
He says, “You know how good you feel?
You feel like a million bucks.”
As for the Santa suit, Letham says it’s
the “best $1,500 I ever spent.”
“If somebody asks me why I do it,” he
explains, “I say it’s the thought of giving to
a little kid, no matter what background he
comes from—make him laugh, make him
happy. That’s Christmas!”
For Walter Letham, it seems like it’s
always Christmas.—Steve Fisher
KERREY SAUNDERS of Danville, California,
writes, “Our family of seven is known in
our hometown as the Costco Family—all the
kids and all their friends joke about how if
Costco doesn’t carry it, we don’t buy it.
“[Last year] we had decided to make
a gingerbread village. Brooke [who is
now a 10-year-old] declared, ‘I am going
to make a Costco house.’ She used
all blue and red candies, included the
Food Court on the side, with picnic
tables made out of gum sticks, and
even had a Christmas tree lot in front.
The pictures don’t do justice to the
caramel shopping carts on the side
in the licorice-lined parking lot!”
—T. Foster Jones
TWO YEARS AGO, shortly after Thanksgiving,
Hawaii Costco member Nick Mann, a Realtor
by trade, felt that one day of giving thanks
each year was not quite enough.
So Mann developed a giant Web-based thank-you
card. Called A World of Thanks (
ofthanks.com), it invites people to post an image
and a thank-you message. When someone mouse-clicks a thumbnail image on the card, it opens up
a message window containing that person’s thank-you message. There is no charge to post a message on the card, but additional space costs $1.99.
Asked why he created the site, Mann says,
“Gratitude has always been a large part of my
philosophy. Whatever you’re grateful for, you’ll
bring more into your life. I wanted to inspire
people to express their gratitude.”—SF