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Santa does it all, even sign language

Cherry Hill based company brings a special Saint Nick to the Moorestown Mall this year.

One of Santa’s elves signs to a visitor at Moorestown Mall’s “Signing Santa” event.

Santa Claus was James Bond before James Bond was James Bond. The guy has all sorts of magical inventions to fly around the world and deliver presents to children in every nation. He’s a master of all languages and cultures, and he can do it all while wearing a fashionable red jumpsuit with a pretty rocking beard on top of it all.

Now the guy can even sign with children who are deaf. Who knew?

Santa Claus was a special guest at the Moorestown Mall recently, hosted by 360 Translations, owned by Dan Swartz. Swartz specially called Santa Claus for this event because he noticed that deaf children in the area weren’t able to speak with the normal helpers of Santa Claus because they couldn’t sign.

Swartz contacted Santa up at the North Pole, and the big guy sent a specially-trained helper to the mall to speak with about 30 families who had children with hearing disabilities. For many of these young children, it was the first time they were ever able to communicate with a Santa Claus, he said.

“Basically, any kid who goes to see any Santa Claus expects Santa to be able to understand him or her, to be able to give them a list of their toys and to have a short conversation with him. With deaf kids, it just wasn’t happening. I thought it would be a great idea to have a Santa speak the same language with these kids and their parents, many of whom are deaf as well,” Swartz said. “It’s awesome. The look on their faces when they realize they can speak with Santa Claus is so great.”

Swartz is the president of 360 Translations, a Cherry Hill based company that offers professional interpreting referral services. For the deaf client, 360 Translations offers professional, ethically minded interpreters who act as a voice for the deaf as well as for the hearing.

Originally based in Baltimore, Swartz said that several schools for the deaf in Maryland asked his company if he knew of any Santas in the area who were able to communicate using sign language. He had never heard of such a request, but thought it would be a great idea for the students to get to experience a visit with Santa Claus.

“We had no idea of anything like this. We thought, ‘You know, maybe there should be one?’ I love kids and we all thought that sounded like a really great idea,” Swartz said. “We did it for malls in that area for a number of years. I sold my business there in 2000 and moved to the Poconos area first and then five years later moved to South Jersey.”

Swartz approached Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust last year to gauge its interest in a signing Santa event for this area. While the Cherry Hill Mall declined his offer, Swartz said the Moorestown Mall quickly jumped on the program.

The first signing Santa event was held last year and was so successful the Moorestown Mall asked 360 Translations to host another one this year, said Lisa Wolstromer, senior marketing director for the mall.

“It’s really nice to have this. When a child is deaf and they come up they’re so surprised. They see that Santa can sign! They can have a conversation with Santa through sign language for the first time in their lives,” she said. “Also, sometimes the children aren’t hearing impaired but the parents are, so even they participate in this magical event. We’ve had parents want to sit in Santa’s lap also. It’s great. We will do this again next year. It’s going to be an annual program for us.”

Swartz said he hopes that 360 Translations can bring the signing Santa events to malls throughout the state and Pennsylvania.

Interested in bring a signing Santa to a mall or an organization near you? Get in touch with 360 Translations at (856) 356-2922.

About Robert Linnehan

I wandered into this building three years ago and they gave me a job. America...What a country.View all posts by Robert Linnehan