It was two weeks to Christmas, but Santa was late.
He adjusted his beard, picked up his sack and climbed into his four-wheel drive. Fumbling with a map, he cruised through Glen Burnie and its environs till he found the home where one Daniel Bibb, 7, waited.
In the basement, Santa filled his sack with gifts. Then he crept up the stairs, bellowing ho-ho-ho's loud enough to rouse the neighborhood.
"SANTA!" screamed Daniel, running to throw both arms around Santa's broad waist. "We thought you were never coming."
Then it was time for the presents, and bedlam.
"Wow!" "Thank you, Santy!" "What'd I GET?" "OH, EEEEEE!"
As Daniel sat back to examine his Ninja Turtle, and his cousins and friends tore the wrapping paper off their gifts, Santa explained what he was doing in Glen Burnie well before the holidays.
He's a Santa-On-Call, said Tom Grimes, an Annapolis businessman. This is his second year playing volunteer Santa for Anne Arundel's Sunshine Foundation chapter.
For $25, Santa will visit a home for 20 minutes. The Sunshine Foundation uses the money to fulfill the wishes of terminally ill and chronically ill children.
"I've done everything from office parties to small children's Christmases," said Grimes through his Santa beard. His wife volunteered him for the project last year, and he kind of got hooked.
"I've had my beard pulled. One little boy took one look and started screaming in terror. But the kids are always fun, and it's a worthwhile project," he said.
The Sunshine Foundation, started in 1976, tries to make dreams come true for dying children, from shopping sprees to computers.
"Gifts, meeting celebrities, trips, whatever the child wants," said Reno Regalbuto, a spokesman for the Philadelphia-based Sunshine Foundation.
Nearly 14,000 children have been helped, most through chapters on the East Coast, he said.
"One little boy wanted to go for a ride in a red Mercedes. We had a time finding a red one," said Regalbuto.
In October, the foundation flew Maryland children to Disney World as a wish-fulfillment.
The Santa program is one of many local fund-raisers in the program. So far this year, the Santas have been swamped with calls for visits, Grimes said.
In Glen Burnie last week, Daniel's cousin, toddler Steven Mayersky, finally got up the courage to touch Santa.
Any one interested in volunteering should call 987-1925 to make an appointment.