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Santa Brings Magic to Naperville Area Families

On December 13, 2016, Santa House once again hosted a special night for military families and first responders. Reservations filled up quickly. Last year, a heart-warming story came to light about a family's tradition of visiting with Santa on military night. Here is the story again from 2015. 

And just a reminder, Santa House 2016 is now open to the public every day through December 23. Thanks to presenting sponsor Woody Buick GMC for support of this Naperville tradition.

A special night

Three years ago, a father returned to his young family in Plainfield following a 12-month tour of duty with the U.S. Army in Afghanistan, just one month before Christmas. They were overjoyed to be back together and looked for something to do as a family during the holidays. That year, in December 2012, Santa House at the Riverwalk first offered a special night reserved for families of those in military service and first responders. The children’s grandmother heard about the special evening at Santa House in Naperville and the family signed up to attend.

Reflecting on that first visit, the father said, “Going to the Santa House less than a month from returning overseas had a huge impact on me, it was magical.”

Since that time, visiting Santa on Military Night has become an annual tradition for the family. “It’s a way to spend time together, have a good dinner in downtown Naperville, some ice cream, and see Santa.”

“I keep falling short trying to explain how much it all means to me,” the father said. “From what downtown Naperville means, to how much Santa means, to how much it means to all of the first responders that there is a special night for us to see Santa and have Santa spend a couple minutes with our families.”

A special gift

As a way to express his appreciation for Santa, the father made a special Army jacket for him. It says, “Santa Claus” on the front and includes a North Star and reindeer on the sides.

Santa proudly wears his jacket on Military and First Responders Night 2015

” I wanted to try and do a little something for Santa,” said the father. “I meant for the uniform top to be a gift from all of us, not just me, but from every fireman, law enforcement officer, paramedic, and military member that comes out that night. For anyone who has spent a Christmas overseas or away from family, we know how powerful Santa is. He gives us hope. He gives us promise. He gives us faith. The least I can do for him is to show him a small token of appreciation.”

The family gave Santa the jacket in 2014 and was surprised and delighted to see him wearing it when they visited this year. “We appreciate the Park District for having the night, the sponsors who host the night, the assistants who are out there in the elements making sure everything runs smoothly, and we appreciate Santa.”

The story behind the photo

The above photo of Santa in his jacket came from another family that has been visiting Santa House with their four children for eight years. The mother, Hillary Shelton, explained more about the photo: “We love the Santa House. It truly helps keep the magic of Christmas alive! The best part of that picture for me was the moment that was not posed. Our daughter, Lyla had told Santa what she wanted and then all of a sudden said, ‘Oh, wait, I have to tell you something.’ And then she whispered to him.  We found out a few days later that when she whispered to Santa she was asking for a gift for me.  It melted my heart.”

 A special time for a mother and daughter

A third family recently told Volunteer Coordinator Lynnette Hoole about a special memory of Santa House and why they now enjoy volunteering there together.  The mother, Shannon Younger, tells the story of her daughter’s last visit with Santa in her blog at Chicago Now, titled, “My version of a Christmas miracle: My tween decided to visit Santa after all.”

Megan Younger listens to Santa’s encouraging and insightful words. Read more here.


Santa waits for his next visitor at Santa House.


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