Santa brings joy to folks of all ages on South Whidbey

Maple Ridge resident Anne Gnozzo and Penelope Bruder

A visit by Santa Claus at Maple Ridge in Freeland proved Monday that people are never too old to get caught up in the magic of the season.

There was 100-year-old Eileen Wilson waiting in anticipation for the man in red to arrive, side-by-side with first-timer Penelope Bruder, the 10-month old daughter of a Maple Ridge employee.

“We’re waiting for Santa,” Wilson said. “It’s fun at any age.”

Santa arrived on his brightly lit sleigh just after dinner at the retirement and assisted living community, accompanied by a court of young elves and firefighters.

Baby Penelope looked on somewhat suspicious of the visitor, yet bravely waved hello to Santa when he approached her.

Wilson said she remembers the first time she encountered Santa.

“It was back home in Davenport, Iowa. You don’t forget something like that. I remember seeing Santa. It was something,” she said.

Santa greeted about 20 residents that gathered in the lobby and earned chuckles when he asked one of the residents if she had been a good girl all year. She assured him she had been.

Following the visit the residents sang some Christmas songs before they continued their evening.

“It’s wonderful. You never get too old for that,” said Florence Corapine, another Maple Ridge resident.

Maple Ridge employee Erica Bruder said that events like this make her work special and bring so much joy to residents and employees.

South Whidbey Fire and EMS has been guiding Santa’s sleigh for pre-Christmas visits through South Whidbey neighborhoods since 1995.

All of the elves, the organizers, drivers, those scheduling the route and Santa himself are volunteers.

“The department does this as a gift to our local community,” said Sherrye Wyatt, spokeswoman for the department. “It’s fun to see how excited everyone gets when Santa arrives, not only young children but the adults too.”

Santa will continue his tour of South Whidbey through Friday. See the calendar on page 12 for other stops he’ll be making.