It’s not often that Santa Claus sheds a tear, but after a visit to deliver early Christmas gifts to a Lee’s Summit girl battling acute myeloid leukemia and her older sister, Kriss Kringle got a little misty-eyed.
“It means a lot, you know?” Santa said less than a minute after the visit. “That’s why I do this.”
‘This’ would be Santa’s annual trips through Lee’s Summit bearing gifts and providing a sliver of happiness to area youth going through difficult times.
Santa made a special visit Dec. 2 to the home of 7-year-old Tianna Lucas, who is fighting leukemia, and her 4-year-old sister, Destinee Lucas – who donated bone marrow to Tianna – to give each of them a silver sleigh bell and a Santa-signed copy of “Polar Express.”
Afterward, the visit brought a slight, emotionally-tinged pause from Santa before he summed up the purpose of visiting children in the Lee’s Summit community to offer hope and smiles during the holiday season.
“If I can bring a smile – you know, a little joy – that’s all,” Santa said of his mission. “Just a chance to reach out… When you see that smile and that happiness, man, you can’t top that. That’s the best. That’s why I do it.”
Santa’s visit to Tianna and her family, which included him reading the girls “The Night before Christmas,” was much appreciated by Tianna and Destinee’s mother, Gina Hensley.
“It’s been really hard,” Hensley, a mother of five, said of the fight against the blood cancer. “Especially now because I have always been a provider and now, obviously, she can’t go places like she did before. She can’t go to school, so I have to stay home and take care of her. It’s been really hard, but I’m just thankful she’s here with us and that we are all together.
“People like (Santa) – it’s been very touching people getting a hold of me on Facebook or what not wanting to reach out and do a little something which makes her happy. So, it’s great.”
Tianna, who Hensley said has been battling leukemia for the past two years, was as happy as a 7-year-old could be when Santa arrived at the family’s residence a few blocks southwest of downtown Lee’s Summit.
The girl was diagnosed with AML in 2010, went into remission, had a relapse, and received bone marrow from her younger sister on Sept. 7. Both girls are doing well if their reaction to Santa’s visit is any testament.
“Santa!” Tianna enthusiastically screamed as she made a beeline dash from her bedroom into the family’s living room to greet Santa. “I waited up for you last year. We always have cookies for you and I don’t eat any. I don’t.”
Destinee was just as happy to receive gifts from Santa some three-and-a-half weeks before Christmas.
“Awesome,” Destinee said of Santa’s appearance.
And Tianna’s take on the visit?
“It was awesome, man!” she said with gusto and a thumb’s up.
Before Santa wrapped up his personal visit with the family, Hensley, Tianna, Destinee and their older sister, Selena Garcia, all posed for photographs with the white-as-snow-bearded gift-giver. Tianna even photographed Santa with her own personal camera attached to a play doll.
“Santa smile,” Tianna said before she snapped the picture. “I’m going to tell (friends) I know you.”