Local Santa spreads joy through Zoom calls with children

It’s inevitable, COVID-19 is impacting everyone this holiday season, and many have to change their Christmas traditions because of it. Because of the virus, children won’t be able to sit on Santa’s lap this year and tell him what they’d like for Christmas, but some Santas are finding a creative way to still bring families Christmas joy while also staying safe.

Terry McLaughlin may be one of the jolliest people around, especially during the holiday season.

“The sparkle in their eyes reflects the joy in their hearts. There’s nothing like childlike faith, childlike dreams,” says McLaughlin.

Six years ago, becoming Santa sort of just fell into his lap.

“It was the first time I ever grew a beard in my life and it turned out white.”

Unintentionally looking the part, McLaughlin, who loves children, thought why not. Thus began spending a very busy Christmas season seeing thousands of kids, full of wonder and joy. It's a stark difference from his other career.

“I've been a police and fire Chaplin most of my career so when someone's lost their loved one I go knock on the door and tell them all the information they need to know and didn’t want to hear ... I get about 30 seconds to tell you that somebody in your family just passed away.”

His decades work as a Chaplin for Tacoma police and fire is work he’s passionate about, but spreading holiday magic is a nice break.

“It’s a great escape for a Chaplin, it’s a great opportunity to give and a joyful time.”

This year, clearly it wasn’t an option to do his job as Santa in a large public place, so he decided to create the North Pole from home, and like so many of us, get on zoom. He says it’s gone so well so far he plans to keep doing it this way long after the pandemic. He says going virtual has made it possible for him to have a more personalized experience with each child.

“Being a parent, having that tradition of seeing Santa in person, it was a disappointing feeling for me, but to see how excited they were and how normal it’s become for them, there was no difference for them they were just as excited it was just as special,” says Andrea Isackson of her children’s experience having a zoom call with McLaughlin, AKA Santa.

She says during such a tough year, the time with Santa meant more to her kids than ever.

“Just how special and magical they made the zoom for the kids was just phenomenal, it was more than what I could’ve ever asked for.”

McLaughlin says families are welcome to have as many people on the zoom call with him as they’d like and the visit is recorded so it’s a special memory you can keep forever. If you’d like to book a call with McLaughlin you can do so here.