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Campus celebrities dress up as Santa for charity

| Tuesday, December 4, 2018

As Christmas approaches, sightings of Santa Claus become more frequent. Santa, in his characteristic bright red suit and white beard, makes frequent appearances around malls, toy stores, parks and other public places.

Emma Farnan | The Observer
Notre Dame freshmen Kent Hardart, left, and Will Ostergard, right, pose with psychology professor Anré Venter, who is dressed as Santa Claus. Venter was one of several well-known campus personalities who dressed up as Santa Clause for the annual event Snapshots with Santa, put on by Irish Fighting for St. Jude.

Members of the South Bend community were able to have their photo taken with Santa at Irish Fighting for St. Jude’s annual event, Snapshots with Santa, which took place on Monday night at the Dahnke Ballroom. For the price of $5, participants were able to take a snapshot with their favorite Santa, who was brought to life by different Notre Dame campus celebrities, including several athletes and professors, as well as decorate cookies and write cards for the patients. The event benefits pediatric cancer research and treatment at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

This year, Irish Fighting for St. Jude managed to enlist the help of athletes and more high-profile Notre Dame figures, accounting for more Santas than ever before. For the first time, the event was hosted in the Dahnke Ballroom and included raffle items by Fighting Irish men’s coach Mike Brey, explained senior Abe Mansour, president of Irish Fighting for St. Jude.

“This year we definitely have amped it up quite a bit […] This is the biggest year yet,” Mansour said.

Santa impersonators included football players junior quarter back Ian Book, graduate student punter Tyler Newsome, senior linebacker Jerry Tillery and senior wide receiver Chris Finke, as well as professors Chris Stevens, Eric Sims, Anré Venter and Fr. Joseph Corpora.

Book said he was inspired by the event’s objective.

“Like two weeks ago I got an email, and once I found out what it was for, it was a no-brainer. I knew I could help out in any way, so I was down to do that,” he said.

Finke said he was excited to embrace his role as Santa.

“I’ve never been Santa, so I hope I’m alright at it,” he said. “It will be fun to sit here with the kids and ask them what they want for Christmas. Hopefully they’re not too scared of me.”

Many people went to the event to support their favorite athletes. Such was the case of junior Brandon Hardy. Participating in Snapshots with Santa for the first time, Hardy said he was looking forward to taking a picture with his friend, Tillery, as well as to get into the Christmas spirit of giving back.

“This is what Notre Dame is about, about making a positive difference in the world. It’s cool to give back to your community,” Hardy said.

Freshman Juliana Salvatierra, who is from Bolivia, said she was eager to take a picture with Venter, her psychology professor. She also referenced the prospect of helping others as her main reason for coming to the event.

“I was really aware of the cause, and I really wanted to help too because in my country I don’t have the opportunity of doing many of these things,” Salvatierra said.

For his part, Venter, a veteran of the event, said he was pleased to reprise his role as Santa. He has participated every year since Snapshots with Santa began, and said he truly enjoys meeting the children and students, and he describes the experience as “wonderful.”

“It’s really cool to see little kids who still think that Santa’s real … it’s magical to them, and that’s really cool,” he said. “The other thing that I really like is seeing students outside of the classroom. It’s nice.”

Another professor who took on the role of Santa Claus was business professor Chris Stevens. As the faculty advisor to Irish Fighting for St. Jude, Stevens said he was happy to undertake a different role to advance the club’s mission.

“Santa is about spreading joy, and about bringing joy and happiness to others. And so, it’s the holiday season — Christmas is upon us — and it’s just a wonderful opportunity to really get into the Christmas spirit early in the season,” Stevens said.

Stevens said he knows the poem “Twas the Night Before Christmas” by heart, and said he may recite it for the children. He said he was approaching his role as Santa with an air of excitement and responsibility. He recognized the power of the role of Santa.

“This is the time of giving, and 80 percent of the population in this world lives on less than $10 a day, and we’re all very, very blessed to be able to be here at Notre Dame, and do what we do,” he said. “So I think that during the holiday season, [students should] do things that bring happiness. It is impossible for students to sprinkle happiness on others and not get some on themselves.”

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