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A mall Santa in a town near Paradise gets heartbreaking requests from kids

The Chico Mall has everything you'd expect to find there during the holiday season -- non-stop Christmas mus...

Posted: Dec 5, 2018 9:28 AM
Updated: Dec 5, 2018 9:28 AM

The Chico Mall has everything you'd expect to find there during the holiday season -- non-stop Christmas music, trees and oversized ornaments, along with signs advertising great deals for increasingly frenzied shoppers.

It also has a temporary classroom space and a FEMA Disaster Recovery Center to help people who lost their homes in the Camp Fire, which devastated nearby Paradise, California, and the surrounding area.

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While they're at the mall to sign up for benefits or take care of other business, a lot of parents are bringing their kids to meet Santa Claus, said Jim Hoskins, the Chico Mall Santa.

The Kentucky native, who said he'd prefer you call him Santa, has a gentle voice and a kind smile. He ended his interview with a quick "Ho, ho, ho" as he hung up the phone.

He said you'd never know that many of the children he's met had lost their homes.

"Most of them are smiling," he said, though he does have to win over the occasional crier. "They are astounding."

The kids' basic needs have been taken care off, thanks to FEMA and the generosity of the community, Hoskins said, so they're asking Santa for dirt bikes, iPhones, Paw Patrol toys and something called L.O.L Surprise dolls.

But many of them do ask for something that Santa can't give -- a home.

"I usually say 'I can't do this in a year. I don't have the magic to do it right now, but we will get you one,'" he said. "I can't give them instant gratification on that, but I can give them some satisfaction that it will be done."

He said some children have been concerned that Santa wouldn't be able to find them since their homes have burned down. He says they don't need to worry about that.

"I say 'I know your relatives and I've got GPS to track you with,'" he said. "It makes them feel better once their parents confirm it."

Kylie Wrobel took her 7-year-old daughter, Ellie, to see Santa on Saturday.

The first thing she asked for was toys for her dog, Daisy.

"She has the biggest heart," Wrobel said. "She was worried about our dog before herself, and then she asked for a Barbie mansion."

Wrobel said she only grabbed her cell phone charger before leaving her Paradise rental house. She didn't have rental insurance, so they lost everything.

Wrobel usually takes a picture of her daughter and Santa on her phone instead of buying one from the mall, she said, but this year's photo was really cute -- and it's the only hard copy photo they have now.

They picked out a frame and put it out in the trailer where they're living, she said, along with their "Elf on a Shelf."

Kathleen Mahnke said that Santa waved at her twin boys, who are about to turn two, as they they were walking through the mall to the FEMA center.

"As a mom, I can tell who is a kid lover," she said. "He was kind and fun, and patient with understanding that young kids take a while to warm up to strangers."

She said she also appreciated the mall offering half off the photo packages for people who went through the fire.

Hoskins says he's amazed by how resilient the children and their parents are when he meets them.

"I see more positive outlooks and attitudes than I do negative," he said.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 614946

Reported Deaths: 9807
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion849231342
Lake45784693
Allen33103560
Hamilton29752316
St. Joseph27572383
Elkhart24496346
Vanderburgh19679255
Tippecanoe18150144
Johnson15234296
Porter14970172
Hendricks14550253
Madison11071223
Clark10852145
Vigo10819185
Monroe9496115
Delaware9193136
LaPorte9173164
Howard8325148
Kosciusko811485
Warrick683399
Hancock6783106
Bartholomew6659100
Floyd6522113
Wayne6194164
Grant6050118
Dubois559081
Boone557968
Morgan551996
Henry512365
Marshall507884
Dearborn488745
Cass487864
Noble476159
Jackson428747
Shelby423381
Lawrence395180
Clinton375845
Gibson375560
Harrison354046
DeKalb351365
Montgomery349754
Knox337839
Miami325244
Steuben315846
Whitley313126
Wabash306951
Adams303636
Ripley301646
Putnam299152
Huntington295760
Jasper293035
White275943
Daviess271776
Jefferson267738
Decatur249983
Fayette249949
Greene242763
Posey241828
Wells237551
LaGrange230363
Scott227939
Clay225032
Randolph215848
Jennings200937
Spencer193622
Sullivan193633
Washington189023
Fountain185227
Starke177044
Jay168723
Owen168338
Fulton165430
Orange161035
Carroll160616
Rush156418
Perry156129
Vermillion150034
Franklin149933
Tipton134433
Parke13098
Pike118826
Blackford112023
Pulaski97937
Newton92621
Brown88835
Benton87110
Crawford8099
Martin75013
Warren6867
Switzerland6695
Union6297
Ohio4967
Unassigned0375

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 872918

Reported Deaths: 10856
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin102616707
Cuyahoga868931154
Hamilton65148455
Montgomery43662420
Summit35411766
Lucas31794634
Butler31451232
Stark26247445
Warren19939144
Lorain19378229
Mahoning17561339
Lake16350161
Clermont16235113
Delaware1463881
Licking13453142
Fairfield1301782
Trumbull12980317
Greene12226144
Medina11798169
Clark11094266
Wood10507158
Allen10031128
Portage9514111
Richland9275134
Miami927273
Marion7512113
Tuscarawas7455186
Columbiana7433124
Pickaway735250
Muskingum714042
Wayne7140172
Erie6253130
Ross5589100
Hancock556292
Scioto545365
Geauga518955
Darke474395
Lawrence464658
Union459130
Ashtabula457973
Sandusky440462
Huron435541
Mercer435590
Seneca435366
Auglaize425166
Belmont423948
Jefferson423969
Shelby422923
Washington396340
Athens38619
Putnam379276
Madison359930
Knox358423
Ashland349638
Fulton341744
Defiance336188
Crawford327274
Preble323637
Brown318821
Logan314835
Ottawa297443
Clinton293944
Highland282219
Williams282267
Jackson266145
Guernsey259326
Champaign254628
Fayette241030
Morrow23594
Perry235518
Holmes227274
Henry222954
Hardin217033
Coshocton208023
Van Wert204445
Gallia200126
Wyandot198151
Pike180918
Adams179815
Hocking174024
Carroll158216
Paulding145521
Noble121040
Meigs110324
Monroe103433
Harrison89821
Morgan84531
Vinton71714
Unassigned00
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