About a month before Christmas, a special mailbox wrapped in red gift paper shows up in the Ketchum Post Office lobby. In the back room of the post office last week, amid shelves and wheeled carts filled with packages, stacks of children’s letters to Santa awaited response.
“This year, I have been fairly good. That is why I’m asking for a hoverboard,” one little girl wrote. “I know I’m asking for alot (sic), but I have wanted one for a long time and this is my chance.”
Two of Santa’s helpers this year, Ketchum U.S. Postal Service clerks Julie Brewer and Chrissy Marshall, shuffle through the pile. A 4-year-old’s drawing of a snow globe in orange marker surfaces.
“This is the kind of thing that makes your day,” Marshall said of the drawing. “We do this [program] because we just love to see the little kids’ faces when they come in to drop off their letters. As stressful as it is with everything else going on, the kids make it worth it.”
When they first come into work, Brewer and Marshall prepare response letters—selecting one out of four replies, depending on context—and top them off with stickers. A special rubber stamp postmarks them as coming from the North Pole.
“Last year, we wrote out each letter personally, but that was too time-consuming,” Marshall said. “This year, we’re giving each child two coloring pages, which they can color, mail back to us and have hung up.”
Brewer displays one of the response letters, addressed collectively from Santa and Mrs. Claus, the elves and the reindeer.
“All of us look forward to our trip to your house and I’m sure that you do too,” it reads. “Listen to your family and be good to others. Remember the spirit of Christmas all year long.”
Across town, Special Events Manager Julian Tyo works as a resident elf for the city of Ketchum, sorting through a steady stream of wish lists dropped in the Town Square mailbox.
“[Julian] helps Santa write back to the children so they know their letters made it to the North Pole,” Assistant City Administrator Lisa Enourato said. “It’s a way to make sure Ketchum kids’ wish lists reach Santa before he starts packing his sleigh.”
According to Enourato, this is the second year the Town Square “Dear Santa” program has been running.