For the past four decades, John Wattleworth, retired general services director for McFarland Clinic in Ames, IA, has been Santa Claus at hospitals, church groups, clinics and other settings. In recent years, his wife, Roberta Wattleworth, D.O.’81, M.H.A.’99, M.P.H.’04, chair and professor of family medicine, has joined the act as Mrs. Claus.
Every holiday, DMU’s Pediatrics Club brings holiday cheer and gifts to children residing at the House of Mercy, a local shelter and rehabilitation center; the Wattleworths bring their ho, ho, ho. They’ve collected some savvy St. Nick know-how:
- Do your research. Check out online toy catalogs so you’re in the know when kids ask for the latest whizbang toy or game.
- You’re Santa, not the Grinch: Don’t force hysterical children to sit on Santa’s lap, and don’t let their parents do so, either. Roberta has reminded John that some of the kids at the House of Mercy are afraid of Santa “because they’ve been hurt by males in their lives.”
- Be ready for anything, including vomit, urination and senior citizens with red lipstick and a burning desire to smooch Santa.
- Think on your feet: One skeptical child doubted John was the real deal because his beard wasn’t down to his belly; John simply explained that Mrs. Claus had gotten carried away with the clippers.
- Learn from the little ones: “I just want my family to get back together,” a child at the House of Mercy once told John. “That makes you blink the tears back,” Roberta says. “You remember it’s not all the material things that are the most important in life.”
Photo © istockphoto/Glenda Powers