It’s been a tradition for more than five years, but it's one that never gets old.
When Santa visits Davila Day School, the students’ smiles are as bright as the star on the tree, and their eyes light up when they see that Santa uses American Sign Language (ASL) to communicate – just like many of them do.
The majority of students at Davila are Deaf or hard of hearing and use either ASL or signing with voice to communicate. To see a Santa that is just like them helps “open up their world” says school audiologist Dr. Amy Kalenderian, one of the staff “elves” who helped coordinate the visit.
All 37 students at Davila received a gift from Santa, all of which were generously donated by employees at the San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE). Earlier this month, Kalenderian, Principal Heidi Lyon, and teachers identified gifts that were age-appropriate, suited to students' abilities, and similar in size and cost. Then they sent the requests out to all SDCOE employees and also posted them on ornaments on the tree at the South County Regional Education Center (SCREC).
Kalenderian and her team of elves included Dianna Nathan, Crystal Nithya, Laura McClellan, Maribel Armas, Adrienne Reed, Ansley Forrestal, and Jaclyn Korfin. They coordinated gifts and decorated, with help from South County Special Education Local Area Plan Executive Director Russell Coronado, who provided the tree at SCREC, and a former employee who donated a tree to Davila.
Once all the students received their gift from Santa and posed for a picture, they counted down and opened the gifts all at once.
In addition to the gift, the students each received an insulated lunch bag, a reusable bag, two books, and a travel salad bowl from the San Ysidro Health Center.
Santa closed out his visit with a Facetime session with one Davila student who was in the hospital.
“It’s such a special day because all of our students get to communicate with a Santa who is Deaf, and understands what they are going through and what they experience. It’s just so special,” Lyon said.