Between five and ten children from selected local kindergarten and first grade schools are being promised a little merrier Christmas this year if a certain Santa Claus is successful in reaching local business people willing to contribute gifts or gift certificates to his cause.
David Riddle, a Kissimmee native who says that he moved to St. Augustine this year to be closer to his father, told Historic City News editor Michael Gold that he grew up in a foster home in the Orlando area and that “God blessed me, so now, I’d like to give back a little.”
Riddle, who says in the eleven-month “off season” he operates two semi-trucks hauling livestock, told Gold that while he has been set up in the Plaza de la Constitucion, he has been asked over and over “Do you know any organization that can provide presents for children to exchange at Christmas?”
Riddle said that during the month of December for the past eight years, he appeared in shopping malls around Orlando working closely with K-Mart to provide gift certificates and gifts for children who he determined would otherwise go without.
“Teachers know which kids are the neediest,” Riddle said during our interview. “In some classes the teachers have wish lists for those children.” According to the “jolly old elf”, the teachers share the wish lists with Riddle and he goes out on a treasure hunt.
Riddle sells photographs for $12 of Santa with the children who visit him. “Part of that money goes to pay my photographers,” Riddle said. “The rest is for me, but, last year, I donated about $3,000 of my own money to the kids because I came up a little short.”
Riddle says Christmas for Kids is unique because 100% of the money he raises for children in need gets distributed right in the St. Augustine area. He says that what he’s doing is different than charities like Salvation Army, who is focused on feeding the hungry, or, a local shelter, that provides a place to stay. “A fifty dollar K-Mart gift card makes a big difference,” said Riddle.
On December 18th at his chair in the market, Santa will hold a Christmas for Kids party and distribute the gifts, gift certificates and gift cards that he has collected this month. Riddle said that he hopes his idea will catch on and that he can return to St. Augustine again next year.
Photo credits: © 2010 Historic City News staff photographer