Thursday December 1, 2011

LANESBOROUGH -- Twelve-year-old Allison Wolfe of Pittsfield has undergone three open-heart surgeries since birth -- and has a fourth one in her future.

But on Wednesday afternoon, the Herberg Middle School seventh-grader's only thought was what to ask Santa Claus for Christmas.

"This year I want a motor scooter," she said.

Allison was among the dozens of local children of the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Massachusetts and Rhode Island who had a special audience at the Berkshire Mall with the "One and only Santa Claus" from the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.

Macy's Santa is currently on a 26-day, 26-city national tour as part of the department store chain's 3rd annual "Believe" campaign to raise money for Make-A-Wish. The national, nonprofit organization grants special requests, such as trips to Disney World, to children with terminal or life-threatening illnesses.


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Since 2009, Macy's has donated $1 for each letter written to Santa that is brought to one of its outlets nationwide, with a maximum contribution of $1 million. Macy's officials say they've hit the top figure the first two years and expect to do it again this holiday season.

Instead of a sleigh and eight tiny reindeer, Kris Kringle arrived at the mall in a special red tour bus as part of a grandiose appearance similar to when he traditionally ends the spectacular, star-studded three-hour parade.

"Macy's certainly knows how to put on a production," said the mall's general manager, Joseph Scelsi.

Macy's Santa initially greeted the Make-A-Wish children in one of the theaters at Regal Cinemas where the second-grade chorus from Williams Elementary school in Pittsfield performed for the youngsters. The musical entertainment was followed by a special screening of the animated short film "Yes, Virginia," based on the 1897 editorial in the New York Sun in response to Virginia Scanlon asking in a letter to the newspaper, "Is there a Santa Claus."

Following the movie, Santa led the boys and girls and their families to the food court, where the Wahconah Regional High School marching band paraded them to the inside entrance to Macy's. There, he held court with "true believers" of Saint Nick by reading to his captive audience the poem, " ‘Twas the Night before Christmas," prior to hearing the children's individual Christmas wishes.

Seven-year-old Gabrielle Zebrowski of Ludlow, who had a diseased kidney removed two years ago, wants to add to her pet collection, according to her mother Regina Zebrowski.

"She wants another puppy, a dachshund," Zebrowski said. "She already has a Samoyed."

Will Gabrielle get her second dog?

"She truly believes in Santa," said her mom.

Meanwhile, the international gift-giving holiday icon received a present of his own -- a ceremonial key to the city from Pittsfield Mayor James M. Ruberto.

"With this key, you can open any door in the city," Ruberto said.

Santa felt the key would come in handy when he makes his stops in Pittsfield on Christmas Eve.

"This is going to be better than going down those chimneys," he said.



For more information, visit Make-A-Wish Foundation of Massachusetts and Rhode Island's website at www.massri.wish.org.

To reach Dick Lindsay:
rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6233.