Santa used to teach values

Sunday, December 19th 2004, 5:20 pm

By: News On 6

SHAWNEE, Okla. (AP) _ Forgiveness. Giving. Kindness. Love. Sharing.

Five virtues Julie Brittain hopes will be taught to children through a series of Christmas books she wrote.

Brittain said the whole idea for her books began with a relative, Billy Gooch of Colorado Springs, Colo.

``He started a business called Naturally Santa, Inc.,'' she said. ``He's had the company 25 years now.''

With natural beards, white as snow, the company specializes in training ``natural Santas.''

``They have a lot of training,'' she said. ``There are 72 Santas with one, maybe two or three Santas in each state. They all travel to shopping malls and places like hospitals to visit children.''

The goal of each Santa is to teach children about the magic of Christmas.

``He tells them, 'Santa loves you. I'm with you all year long,''' Brittain said. ``What better person to teach kids about Christmas than Santa Claus. Children will listen to him.''

Gooch wanted the Santas to have something to give to the children.

``Thats when my aunt called me,'' Brittain said. ``She wanted me to write the stories. I had done some writing. I enjoy writing. I had never written children's books though.''

With five books to a set, each tells about and illustrates one of the virtues in a story and features two children as main characters.

``All of the children's names in the story are actual names in our family,'' Brittain said. ``The illustrations are created from photos of them.''

The five books are written on an elementary school level with stories 10 pages long. A biography of each character is printed on the back page.

Brittain said the theme of the series is ``Always believe in the magic of Christmas.''

Santas participating in Naturally Santa, Inc. have purchased the books to distribute to children in shopping malls, shelters and hospitals.

``Most of them give up time with their families to travel and be with needy children who really need the encouragement and attention,'' Brittain said. ``They do a lot of amazing things for kids across the country.''

Along with the job of being a ``natural Santa'' comes an array of experiences with children. Brittain said the company is planning a coffee table book that highlights stories submitted by the Santas.

Locally, there are ``natural Santas'' in Quail Springs Mall of Oklahoma City and in Sooner Mall of Norman. The books may be purchased at the Jasmine Moran Childrens Museum of Seminole.

``All the funds go right back into the project,'' Brittain said. ``The money is used to print more books.''

The books, published through BiJay Publishing of Stroud and printed in Missouri, also may be purchased by calling 1-800-766-8191, ext. 15, or ordered online. Cost is $19.95 per set, plus shipping.

Brittain and her husband, Michael, are both Shawnee High School graduates. They have 7-year-old twin girls, Raegan and Jordan, and 2-year-old Bauer.

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