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Santa Knows Sign Language, Brings Christmas Cheer to Deaf Children in DC, and the Kids Say 'He's Real'


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When you're as well-traveled as Santa Claus, you can speak every language on Earth even sign language. This allows all children to have a memorable experience of meeting St. Nick and telling him exactly what they want for Christmas. 

Charles Graves is one of Santa's helpers and one of the few of the country's deaf Santas. He communicates with deaf children using American Sign Language (ASL). 

DCist reports Graves works as a residential counselor at the Texas School for the Deaf where he's helped kids like him for more than two decades.

He realized a few years ago that he could fill out the familiar red suit trimmed in white. So he started the tradition of a seasonal transition to looking like Kris Kringle to help deaf children experience the true spirit of Christmas.

"There are a lot of hearing Santas out there," Graves told DCist through ASL translator Anthony Mowl. "And for that child to be able to look up to somebody who's like them … that's why I do this."

Dressed as the jolly old elf, he visits and speaks via sign language with hundreds of deaf children every year during the holidays, helping to give them some Christmas cheer. 

But Graves will tell you he also experienced a special Christmas moment. 

"My wife encouraged me to give it a try and I put on the suit and I realized I felt something in me," he told KABC-TV. "I could see it in the mirror. I felt like the real Santa Claus. It was magical."

This year, Graves and his translator decided to go on tour to spread their ASL message. They chose Washington, D.C., because the region has one of the largest deaf and hard-of-hearing communities in the country.  America's capital city has more than 20,000 deaf residents living in the District of Columbia. 

Graves spent Monday evening delighting children, listening to what they wanted for Christmas at the Gaylord National Resort just outside of D.C. 

"{I told him} I want some new Vans shoes," eight-year-old Ramon Torres Maurn told DCist through a translator. "I want a couple of Goosebumps books. And… a Rubik's Cube. And I want a really hard one, not just one of the regular squares. A really complicated one."

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Four-year-old Cleo Boudreault was in "awe" of meeting a Santa Claus who communicates the same way she does, her parents told the outlet.

"To see Santa as a person, as a real-life character, and he can be here and be an example, that is just so fantastic," said Cleo's mom, Genie Gertz, in ASL through an interpreter.

At the end of every conversation, this Santa gives the child a warm hug and signs, "Merry Christmas," according to DCist

Franklin Torres, another parent of a deaf child, explained to the outlet that his son's previous visits to Santa at the local mall were always missing something -- direct communication with the man himself.  When that Santa found out his 8-year-old son was deaf, he would just give a wave, a thumbs up, and a pat on the back. 

But having a deaf Santa changes that, said Ramon's mom, Norma Morán. "It's the magic of Christmas for our kids," she told the outlet. 

When asked if this Santa was real, Ramon replied, "Yes. He's real."

Graves's mission is not only to bring smiles but to encourage hearing parents with deaf children to learn ASL themselves.

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About The Author

Steve Warren is a senior multimedia producer for CBN News. Warren has worked in the news departments of television stations and cable networks across the country. In addition, he also worked as a producer-director in television production and on-air promotion. A Civil War historian, he authored the book The Second Battle of Cabin Creek: Brilliant Victory. It was the companion book to the television documentary titled Last Raid at Cabin Creek currently streaming on Amazon Prime. He holds an M.A. in Journalism from the University of Oklahoma and a B.A. in Communication from the University of