LYNNWOOD, Wash. - Shoppers making a last minute stop at Alderwood Mall won’t be seeing a familiar face this season.
Santa Frank, who has been the mall Santa for 18 years, is recovering from Covid-19. He battled the virus over the summer but is still dealing with lingering symptoms and says it’s simply not safe for him to interact with the public.
"It’s been real hard on me in my heart," said Santa Frank. "You can’t touch anybody, you can’t hug anybody, and you can’t be up face-to-face without a mask. It’s been real hard staying up here at the North Pole."
What Santa Frank didn’t expect was the massive outpouring from the community around Snohomish County, rallying around their favorite Saint Nick. Many families have made him part of their life every holiday season for nearly 20 years, taking pictures with him as babies and right into adulthood.
When Sherry Lankston posted about Santa Frank’s plight on a local community Facebook page, she was shocked at the response.
"I saw this outpouring from the community asking about him and if he’s okay," said Lankston. "They missed him. They’ve been seeing him for 18 years and they just want to wish him well, make sure everything Is okay, and tell them they love him."
Lankston organized Zoom calls between Santa Frank and his fans, and then she began soliciting pictures from people to Photoshop along Santa Frank so they could keep their annual Santa picture tradition alive.
"I’ve done almost 300 photos now for families and that’s just on one community Facebook group," said Lankston.
Santa Frank says he’s blown away by the support, and can’t wait to get back in his traditional seat at Alderwood Mall for the holiday season in 2021. He’s also become a cheerleader for staying safe during this ongoing pandemic.
"Please take it serious. When I got the virus it was probably the worst 14 days of my entire life, and I’m old. I started out in the third century. In all those years this has been the toughest.
"Wash your hands, keep your distance and wear your mask."