Santa calling: An Ormond tradition
For the last several years, George Hadzewycz has helped Santa Claus by calling area children.
Santa Claus has business cards. They just happen to have George Hadzewycz’s name on them.
Hadzewycz started making phone calls to area children, in an effort to help the real Santa, about four or five years ago, as part of the Santa Calling program, run by the city and the Ormond Beach Lions Club.
When he started, there were three helpers making phone calls for Santa. The next year, two callers. And by the third year, it was just Hadzewycz, a stack of call sheets and his phone.
Hadzewycz came to the United States in 1948, from Ukraine, aboard a ship, and settled in New York.
“We got on an American ship, on my birthday, when I was 6 years old,” he said. “On May 17, 1948, we got on a ship in Bremerhaven, Germany, and came through Ellis Island, I think, nine days later.”
During that trip, Hadzewycz said he got separated from his family. It wasn’t an ordeal, just a 6-year old wandering off.
He spoke no English at the time, and found his way back to his parent’s stateroom by looking for the kerchief his mother hung above the door.
“I believe the name of the ship was Flash Mariner,” Hadzewycz said. “What a thing to remember for all these years.”
He was a co-pilot of an H-34 helicopter during the Vietnam war, and made medevac, food and supplies trips before being shot down.
Hadzewycz was in banking for 14 years and now, every December, he makes phone calls to check up on children, listen to their wishlists and make them promise to leave hot chocolate for him and food for his reindeer.
“I like kids,” he said. “I feel that, for my gruffness in the real world, I can mellow for the youngsters and try to show them that there is a nicer side of me.”
Hadzewycz’s calls don’t always get through to the children, whose parents have submitted a call sheet.
Sometimes the number he was given is a business line. Sometimes people think he’s a telemarketer. And once, a child was in Greenwich, Conn., visiting a grandma.
Hadzewycz started working his way through this year’s call sheets, which he says was a little bigger than in previous years, Dec. 11, in his living room, sitting in a recliner.
He makes calls from 6 to 8 p.m., and the children he can’t reach will get a call the next night, or the night after. Hadzewycz said he makes every effort to reach them.
“Now, Santa is going to try and get you exactly what you want,” he said to a 6-year-old boy. “But if he can’t, he’ll get you something special.”
That line is to benefit the parents, so Santa doesn’t promise something his helpers can’t deliver.