Sykesville Santa answers the mail

December 23, 1993|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Staff Writer

With help from a postal carrier and a girls basketball team, Santa Claus answers every letter he receives from Sykesville.

Brian D. Rains, 36, said that years ago he started answering letters as he picked them up on his mail route. Soon, other carriers at the Sykesville Post Office passed more "Dear Santa" letters to him. He penned short replies on Christmas stationery until he developed writer's cramp.

"It escalated to the point where I needed elves to help," Mr. Rains said.

As the junior varsity girls basketball coach at South Carroll High, he had 13 helpers.

"The letters give them a nice break from practice and show there is more to life than basketball," he said.

Mr. Rains stops daily practice early twice a week, when the team members switch from basketballs to pens.

"We get to imagine kids opening up the letter and being surprised they got a letter back from Santa," said Christine Phillips, 14.

Mr. Rains said he tells the girls to make the return letters personal, simple and with no delivery promises.

The girls often have to look at the return address to understand a child's signature.

"The children write big and backward and draw pictures on their letters," said Jaine Yokay, 15.

The group has answered about 40 letters this year. They start soon after Thanksgiving, but not too soon.

"If you answer too early, they will write again," said Mr. Rains, who will answer the last-minute writers.

The senders range in age from the youngest who scribble with parents' help to 6- or 7-year-old children writing on their own.

"They all want to believe in Santa," Mr. Rains said. "Somehow we work that out."

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