Ed Butchart, a.k.a. Santa Claus, was a senior in high school the first time he donned the red suit. Butchart's brother asked for a Santa appearance as part of a deal brokered with his 3-year-old daughter, Susan. She had offered to relinquish her "blankey" if Santa Claus himself came to her house to get it. Butchart borrowed a Santa suit from a local department store and as the hour approached made the final adjustments on his fake beard and the two pillows stuffed beneath his crimson coat. His heart was "all aflutter," he recalls, when he walked to the house and rang the bell. Susan opened the door, screamed, then bolted to her room and hid under her bed in absolute terror. She refused to come out and reduced her father to squeezing under the bed himself to drag her out kicking and screaming. She eventually relinquished her blanket to Santa—a deal was a deal—but she never said a word to him and retreated to her room once the transaction was complete. It would be 40 years before Butchart put on the suit again. Between that episode and his present incarnation as Santa, he has grown to understand the heart's need to believe, even if it reveals itself in an irrational scheme about a fat guy squeezing down every chimney on planet Earth in a single night.I say "incarnation as Santa" because Butchart's white fluffy beard is real, he calls his wife, Annie, "Mrs. Claus," and when people stare at him in restaurants and approach him, he signs his autograph: "Remember to be good/Love, Santa." Instead of the North Pole, Butchart is based in Atlanta, Georgia. And instead of a toy shop, Butchart operates a 65,000 square-foot workshop where he and his "elves" refurbish old wheelchairs and other medical equipment to give away to the disabled.Butchart, ...

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