Lansing Mall's Santa Claus remembers one Christmas when a group of sisters asked him to make their sick father well. He says every year, he gets requests to fix family situations and bring back pets that have died. Years of experience have taught him to counsel as he does his regular duties.
He also knows never to promise gifts that can't be delivered. When a child asks for a pet, for example, he explains he can't bring animals in the sleigh. He also recognizes financial constraints, and always tells children he can't promise, but he'll try.
When the requests come by mail, the Salvation Army answers the call. The post office forwards all letters addressed to Santa Claus to them, and they read them to see if they can help. Major Robert Scott, who heads the Salvation Army here in Lansing, says kids are often more honest in their letters to Santa than to adults in their life. His social services staff uses the letters to alert them to domestic abuse, or to families who can't afford to give their children a Christmas this year.