ANDERSON — He was just a boy, about five or six years old. His hair was completely gone, and his little body was showing the effects of heavy medications. Just into remission from leukemia, he was there with a bright smile on his face to visit Santa Claus. What was his Christmas wish?
“He was wanting for everybody to be as happy as he was right then,” said David Cunningham.
Cunningham knows because this time of year he’s privy to all those Christmas wishes. Day in and day out, the Anderson man dons his fur-topped boots, buckles his belt over his red suit, and perches his glasses on his nose to play Santa at Mounds Mall in Anderson.
About 4,500 kids came to see Santa at Mounds Mall last year, and since Black Friday this year, there’s been a steady stream. Cunningham, 61, stepped in to the job last year, when the mall’s former Kris Kringle dropped out due to health issues. It was a brand new role for Cunningham, who has worked in mall security for about five years after retiring from Delco-Remy.
“I really didn’t know anything about being Santa,” said Cunningham. He definitely took to the role, though. He now sports a long, white beard achieved through the magic of time and peroxide.
Cunningham happily goes to his Santa gig aided by Susan Adams, who is in her first year as Mrs. Claus. In her red dress and white wig, she helps manage the kids.
“It’s a lot of fun, it really is,” said Adams. “The kids - they’re a hoot.”
Most of those who come to see Santa are anywhere from infant to about nine years old. They bring their Christmas wishes, and many get their picture taken with him - Sandy Hampton of Anderson’s Hampton Photography is the on-site pro who snaps and prints the pictures.