All around the world, families are wondering how they can celebrate the magic of Christmas this year without holiday parades, parties, and visits with Santa Claus. The holiday season is practically here and many countries are still struggling to cope with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Even if families are able to find a location for Santa photos, they may not be able to afford them. Either way, Kris Kringles all over the world are out of work this Christmas.
Perhaps those struggling the most are sick children in hospitals worldwide during this time who may not get to experience any holiday joy amid COVID-19 safety restrictions and guidelines.
Concerned with the little ones who need holiday cheer the most, Larry Hersberger, renowned Christmas artist, teamed up with Ela Bednarek, his fiancee and business partner, along with Cliff Snider, International Santa Claus Hall of Fame member in recent months to create their mission: “How to Save Christmas.”
“How to Save Christmas” will give Santas the opportunity to meet with children safely and remotely.
The mission statement reads that they’re on a mission to, “provide an affordable and virus-safe virtual option for parents to still have their children in pictures with Santa Claus this year. The company’s patent-pending technology will give families the ability to take a picture of their child in the hospital or at home, upload it to the website, and watch as the child is then magically removed from the original picture and transformed into stunning artwork with Santa himself.”
Co-founder Hersberger is an internationally recognized and award-winning artist of over 35 years. He has clients in over 50 countries, and he’s become one of the best-known Christmas/Santa artists, according to the website.
Co-founder Bednarek is an artist in the fields of oil painting, light, people and photography. Her high-fashion photography skills have been featured in magazine editorials. The website reads that she is, “dedicated to advancing the lives of children worldwide.”
The artwork on the site features Santa Cliff as the default Santa. One of the many Santas doing storytime Zoom calls with kids this holiday season, Santa Wallace Cady, has known Cliff for over 20 years and gladly agreed to be a part of the program.
Cady said that traditional pictures with Santa at malls this holiday season look very different than usual: some Santas will wave to children from inside an inflatable snow globe, some will talk to kids from behind a wall of plexiglass or through a window.
Due to similar restrictions cancelling many Christmas parades and events this year, cady was glad to have a safe and easy option to be Santa this year.
The greatest difference with Santas in 2020 will be that COVID-19 safety prevents children from being able to sit on Santas lap and tell him what they want for Christmas.
Instead, families will have the opportunity to have their children interact with Santa in a COVID-19 safe way at home.
The website, howtosavechristmas.com, offers three options for a Zoom visit with Santa, options including: a 15-minute storytime with Santa for $97, a premium Zoom experience with a letter from Santa and a bell from his magical sleigh for $137, or a 30-minute Zoom for groups.
Cady said that the Santas involved in the program have already undergone test calls and dress rehearsals.
“The families fill out an information sheet including the kids’ names, ages, favorite toy and what Santa brought them last year,” he said.
He noted that he asks for pets’ names and the names of families’ Elf on the Shelf if they have one.
“When I say their elf’s name, it makes them perk right up and pay attention,” Cady said, “It makes a real connection with the kids.”
Although he won’t see children in person this year as Santa, Cady said that the Zoom calls may create a better and magical interaction. It also provides Cady with the chance to show kids his ventriloquism and magic talents; sometimes Rudy, the puppet reindeer, makes an appearance in his storytimes.
“In the mall, you only see them for a minute or two,” Cady said, “They say they want a trampoline, and then you take the picture and it’s done.”
Within the 15 minutes, he tells the children all about how Santa can fit all the presents in the sleigh and shows them a globe and explains how he travels the world in one night.
“I finish in Alaska, and then it’s a quick hop, skip and a jump to the North Pole, ho-ho-ho,” he said.
For the DIY photos, families may choose to submit a photo of their child and have them photoshopped into a piece of professional art with either Santa Cliff or a snowman. The site features options other than photos, such as keepsake mugs or blankets. Prices vary depending on the product and are posted on the site.
“Hersberger and his partner invested about $100,000 in developing the software and uploading the sample pictures of the kids and family,” Cady said.
Find out more about Santa Cady and other specific Santas by typing their names in the search bar on the website, https://www.howtosavechristmas.com/.
Visit the “How to Save Christmas” social media pages for further information.
Thirty-two more confirmed cases of COVID-19 were reported in Bradford County on Saturday according to the update from the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
There were 50 new cases reported from Thursday to Friday and 52 new cases reported from Wednesday to Thursday.
The DOH has reported 1,457 total confirmed cases in Bradford County since March.
The travel mitigation order issued to the public at midnight on Friday as well as the stricter mask/face covering mandate reflects the surge in COVID-19 cases in local counties and the state.
The numbers of confirmed and probable cases had been rising for weeks until Saturday’s update which reflects a decrease in probable cases from 171 reported on Friday to 169 reported on Saturday.
Probable cases are either someone who meets the clinical criteria for COVID-19 and/or demonstrates epidemiologic evidence which determines the risk of infection before testing positive, according to the DOH.
Michelle Shedden, chief clerk among the Bradford County Commissioners, announced to the public on Saturday that all staff members that were tested after exposure to the virus last week received negative COVID-19 results and that they will return to their office on Monday morning.
The DOH confirmed 6,778 new confirmed positive cases as of midnight on Saturday, bringing the statewide total to 302,564.
This week, the department received 400,253 tests and 41,399 of them came back as positive COVID-19 cases. According to Saturday’s report, there were 58,950 test results reported to the department by 10 p.m. on Friday.
Harrisburg – The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources secretary Cindy Adams Dunn announced on Saturday that masks must be worn outdoors when out-of-state park visitors are unable to social distance.
“Since the beginning of efforts to address the pandemic, we have kept our state park and forest lands open to all so that people can safely enjoy outdoor recreation as a way to maintain positive physical and mental health, and that will continue to be the case,” Dunn said. “We are making some changes to our overnight stays for out-of-state-visitors and our programming to help decrease the spread of COVID-19.”
To contain the spread of the virus, the DCNR will be enforcing similar restrictions to the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s travel mitigation order.
For the safety of visitors and staff, the following mitigation orders will be required at state parks:
Visitors who don’t comply may be fined between $25 and $300, according to the DCNR.
Masks/face coverings are required to be worn at the following places:
All outdoor environmental education and recreation programs will be limited to 20 people, to include staff and volunteer leaders. Masks/face coverings must be worn by all participants, and services will be denied if visitors cannot comply.
The changes were effective as of Saturday and will remain enforced until at least Jan. 15, 2021.
Dunn noted that visits to Pennsylvania state parks have increased by more than a million visitors a month since the start of mitigation efforts, and that interest is expected to hold strong through the winter and spring.
“We encourage people to embrace being active outdoors, even in the winter, because there are so many benefits associated with enjoying nature,” Dunn said. “With the appropriate clothing and preparedness, winter is among the most beautiful and peaceful times in our parks and forests.”