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The Villages
Saturday, June 22, 2024

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus and he exists in more places than one can imagine

Eight-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon wrote a letter to The Sun newspaper in New York City that led to an editorial from editor Francis Pharcellus Church – one of the most famous opinion pieces ever written.

It’s a simple story but a favorite among journalists young and old.

An 8-year-old girl named Virginia O’Hanlon wrote to a newspaper editor in 1897 to ask a simple question – does Santa Claus really exist? It’s something kids often ask and young Virginia was at the perfect age to be pondering such an important dilemma.

Virginia’s letter was sent to The Sun in New York City – a prominent publication in its day that carried a lot of weight with readers. We’re sure many of you are well aware of this story, but with Christmas right around the corner, there’s no better time to stop and enjoy the answer Virginia received from Francis Pharcellus Church, an editor at the newspaper who probably had no idea that he was writing arguably the most famous editorial ever printed.

Villages Charter School Resource Deputy Blair Rutz introduces Khloe Dorey to Santa Claus during the recent Sumter County Sheriff’s Office’s Kids, Cops & Christmas event at Wal-Mart in The Villages.

Anyone who has read the piece in its entirety knows that Church’s answer came straight from his heart. And if you’re like us, you still get goosebumps every time you read those famous lines that were printed 122 years ago – words that truly defined the meaning of Christmas for many.

“Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy… Thank God he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.”

Mom Jessica Kniebes and two of her children, 5-year-old Delilah and 3-year-old Ari, were all smiles recently during the Wildwood Police Department’s ‘Shop With a Cop’ event at Wal-Mart in The Villages.
Sumter County sheriff’s deputies kicked off the annual Villages Christmas Parade on Dec. 14 at The Villages Polo Fields.

Yes, Virginia, Santa Claus is indeed alive and well – especially when it comes to The Villages and the surrounding tri-county area. He’s there when someone is down on their luck. He’s there to pick up a sick neighbor or offer comfort and help when someone loses a loved one. And he never hesitates to come out in full force to make sure that children across the local area have a wonderful Christmas – regardless of what it costs or how much work it takes.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again – that’s pretty special and it’s one of the many wonderful things about the folks who call The Villages home. They’ve stepped up in many ways to help those in need or to just brighten the days this holiday season. Here’s just a few examples:

  • Deputies and police officers from throughout the local area made a huge impact on area children. They took part in Christmas parades throughout the region, stopping to spend time with the kids who attended the events. They also participated in various programs where they go on shopping sprees with children who very well could have gone without on Christmas morning.
  • This year’s Sumter County Sheriff’s Bicycle Collection (designed and funded by Sheriff Bill Farmer) succeeded in collecting and distributing more than 340 bikes.

    Sumter County sheriff’s Lt. L.J. Wynn helps 14-year-old Jaidyn Walker and Jaidyn’s grandmother, Joyce Brown, while shopping.
  • The majority of those bicycles were collected by Villages cycling clubs, which began their drive in November. Forty volunteers from the Sumter Landing Bicycle Club, The Village Bicycle Club and the Panthers Tandem Bicycle Club worked their magic on collecting, fixing and beautifying the donated bikes at the Lake Miona Recreation Center. The clubs also enlisted the help of mechanics from Villages Cycles and Dave’s Cycles in Wildwood to get the bikes in good working order.
  • Two local storage companies – Southern Self Storage at 4150 County Road 466 and Compass Self Storage at 4477 E County Road 466 – helped with the bike drive by donating storage space to the sheriff’s office as needed.
  • Members of the Col. Phillip C. Delong Detachment #1267 of the Marine Corps League in The Villages ran another highly successful Toys for Tots campaign. Last year the group helped collect and distribute 28,361 toys to 6,025 children in Sumter and Lake counties.
  • The City of Fruitland Park held its annual Hometown Christmas celebration on the front law of City Hall that included music, a bonfire, a bounce house for kids and much more, including a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus.

    Fruitland Park Commissioner John Mobilian and his wife, Mary Ann
  • Bless Fruitland Park treated more than 100 Fruitland Park city employees, city officials and business leaders to a tasty lunch at Heritage Community Church.
  • Volunteers from Beyond the Wall Food Pantry were treated to a special appreciation dinner by volunteer Mary Ann Mobilian and her husband John, who serves as a Fruitland Park city commissioner.
  • Members of The Villages Mustang Club donated dozens of toys to the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office to be distributed to needy children. The Villages Kart Club got in on the generosity by donating a check for $1,000 and toys to the sheriff’s office. And members of The Villages Vintage Car Club gave the sheriff’s office an $1,100 check to support its Kids, Cops and Christmas program.

    Wildwood Police officers Andrew Wellman and Rashid Bankasingh
  • Wildwood Police officers Rashid Bankasingh and Andrew Wellman stepped up earlier this month and bought a coat for a child after they saw him walking to school on a cold morning wearing only a shirt and shorts.
  • A “Christmas Angel” returned a woman’s wallet to the Belvedere Library after she accidentally dropped it in the parking lot.
  • Many area residents donated Christmas decorations for the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office’s outreach program to distribute to families who couldn’t afford to purchase them but wanted to show their holiday spirit.
  • Rotarians and members of many other clubs supported a plethora of programs and schools to make Christmas brighter for many area children in need.

We’d also like to offer a huge word of thanks for everyone who stepped up this year to help or keep a Belleview teenager that we’ve written about several times in their thoughts and prayers.

Cole Tumey shares a moment with his mother, Leona Yawn, before going into surgery in January to have his only kidney removed.

Cole Tumey is in desperate need of a kidney. The 19-year-old was supposed to undergo transplant surgery in May but the procedure was canceled at the last minute after his blood antigens changed from negative to positive, thereby eliminating his donor, Lake City’s Amber Ferguson, from consideration.

Every time we write about Cole, his mother, Leona Yawn, receives interest from area residents seeking to find out if they’d be a match. We know the perfect donor is out there and we keep our fingers crossed and pray every day that the always-smiling Village View Christian Academy graduate will get the kidney he needs very soon and be able to forward with his life in good health.

To learn more about the effort to help Cole, click HERE. To donate to his GoFundMe account, click HERE.

Cole Tumey taught himself to play the guitar and performs with the band at New Identity Community Church in Belleview on Sunday mornings.

As you enjoy opening packages and spending time with family and friends on Christmas morning, please take a moment and remember those we mentioned above. Please offer a big “thank you” to anyone else you know who has helped others this holiday season. And please know that even though we couldn’t mention everybody in the local area who has helped somebody this holiday season, their efforts truly are appreciated.

So, as we all await a visit from Santa Claus on Wednesday morning, we at Villages-News.com would like to wish each of you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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