If Nicole Hawley didn’t understand the power of social media before, she certainly must have gotten a sense of it on Wednesday.
“Hi guys,” she posted on Facebook. “You may not know me, but a lot of you know my grandparents. My grandparents are Mr. and Mrs. Claus at Londonderry Mall.
“Two months ago, ‘Santa’ ended up in the hospital. He is still [in] ICU and things aren’t looking too good. So I’m reaching out to the public to help lift my grandpa’s spirits.”
Nicole asked Facebook users to submit any photos they had of their children or pets with her grandfather and grandmother.
“I made the post because, like I said, my grandfather’s been in the hospital for two months today and I know he loves doing Santa. It’s the highlight of the Christmas season for him,” she said.
Nicole received hundreds of responses within hours.
“I am so overwhelmed by how many people have been touched my my grandfather,” she said. “I am doing my best to respond to each and every one of you! Thank you all so much!!!!”
Hawley was blown away by the pictures and personal messages.
“My phone has died multiple times tonight, at one point I needed to keep it on the charger just to keep up with everything,” she said.
“It keeps buzzing, going off. Notification here, message there. It’s been crazy. It even reached back home in Nova Scotia. I’ve been meeting family I didn’t know I had.”
Hawley’s grandparents have always been Mr. and Mrs. Claus to her.
When she was little, her mom would call Santa and tell on her for misbehaving. Hawley said she didn’t catch on until she was 16.
“It’s amazing! I knew a lot of people travelled and loved seeing them as Mr. and Mrs. Claus, but I didn’t realize how many,” she said.
“I cried multiple times today.”
Her grandparents made their debut as Mr. and Mrs. Claus five Christmases ago, as part of a charity fundraiser their daughter was running at her store.
They received a call from Londonderry Mall the next year.
“I went with him to his first interview and he said, ‘you know my wife plays Mrs. Claus!’ They said they’d take it under consideration,” Dana Hawley said.
When her husband, Cecil Hawley, went to fill out his paperwork a few weeks later, there were forms for Mrs. Claus too.
That’s when their role at Londonderry Mall officially began.
“This would’ve been our fifth year with Londonderry Mall,” she said.
Dana said the pair just loves children. This year they did lots of work with autistic children at the mall.
“You have parents crying because this is the first time [their child] has had pictures taken with Santa,” Dana said.
On Nov. 27, 2016, Julia Wong filed this report about the staff at Londonderry Mall coming with a unique way to help children with autism enjoy the spirit of Christmas while also getting a photo with Santa.
On Thursday, when Dana was at the hospital, Nicole sent her a message that someone had sent to Cecil through Facebook.
It read: “This Santa was different. He brought life back to Christmas and made a genuine effort to bring a smile to all. We were broke. Didn’t know how we were making bills never mind making Christmas happen and this Santa made me forget all that. The look on my girl’s face cannot ever be taken away.”
It went on to say, “They let my little girl talk their ear off excitedly, gave her a candy cane and invited us to take pictures. My Christmas gift that year from her was a homemade frame with her with them.
“They can never know how much those moments meant to me and my daughter. They didn’t just keep Christmas special for a little girl, they gave back the Christmas spirit to a mom who really needed it at that time.”
Dana said that note truly resonated with Mr. Claus.
“When I told my husband about that today, he just closed his eyes for a few seconds and gave a thumbs up. Because he couldn’t say anything at this point in time,” she said.
“So I know he felt the love they came through those letters today.”
She had no idea of the impact that Mr. and Mrs. Claus had on families.
“You really don’t know how much you implicate into their lives a little bit of spirit, a little bit of hope,” Dana said.
View some photos of Mr. and Mrs. Claus below:
“The love and the positive thoughts, it was just totally overwhelming! With each one of those, it makes your heart give an extra thump.”
Santa was originally admitted to hospital with a sore throat.
“For him to be so sick, in a coma, we didn’t know if he’d make it. We still don’t know,” said his daughter, Leanne Hawley.
But the thoughtful response from virtual strangers is working its magic.
“I need to keep these stories coming in, it’s exactly what I was hoping for, it’s hope. A little light for him to look forward to,” Nicole said.
One of the photos she received showed an infant sitting on Mrs. Claus’ lap next to Santa for their very first Christmas.
Another showed a different infant in a similar pose; the poster said their visit to the Londonderry Mall marked the first time the child didn’t cry while meeting Santa.
Yet another featured a young couple posing with the Clauses.
“This was our first spur of the moment picture together. Now we are engaged!” the poster said.
“Hope Santa gets back on his feet again soon. Both him and Mrs. Claus are the sweetest!”
“I worked at Londonderry for a while and Christmas was always my favorite!” another poster wrote. “Mr. and Mrs. Claus were my favourite! Nicest people I’ve ever met!”
Mrs. Claus is crossing her fingers and toes that her husband’s condition will improve before the holidays.
“Hopefully with a little luck, and some extra luck up there,” she said, pointing to the sky, “we may be back there this year. We’re hoping.”
“If not, next year for sure.”
Santa will keep fighting to be better, so he can see all the good girls and boys again.
“Every day that we are at the hospital, we are doing a countdown. We’re at three months and 26 days,” Dana said.
“If he’s got anything to say about it, he’ll be back, guaranteed.”
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